Water & Drought

Roseville proposes 21 percent hike in water rates

Steve Ries and his great-granddaughter Korynn Toledo examine Ries’ front lawn in Roseville in April. The Ries family has cut its water use by replacing turf with drought-resistant plants, but residents still face higher rates.
Steve Ries and his great-granddaughter Korynn Toledo examine Ries’ front lawn in Roseville in April. The Ries family has cut its water use by replacing turf with drought-resistant plants, but residents still face higher rates. rbenton@sacbee.com

Roseville residents are using less water these days but they’re about to start paying more for it.

Citing drought-related expenses, the city is proposing to raise monthly rates by an average of 21 percent. The city said the increases would comply with a recent court ruling that ties water rates to costs.

The higher rates would be imposed in two stages, with the first rate hike taking effect in January and the second in July.

A city press release said a typical single-family home would see its monthly bill go up 35 percent, to $36.25. But Carol Margetich, the city utility’s business services administrator, said that example is a “worst case scenario” and the average bill will go up 21 percent. As part of the package, the city plans to eliminate the 15 percent “water shortage surcharge” it implemented in June 2014.

While municipal agencies across California have been considering water rate increases to encourage conservation, many, including Roseville, have been stymied by an April court decision involving the city of San Juan Capistrano. An appellate court, citing Proposing 218, said a municipality’s water rates have to reflect its costs.

Because of that ruling, Roseville withdrew a proposal this summer to raise rates over a two-year period. The first rate hike would have taken effect last July.

The new rate proposal is “based on strict cost of service analyses conducted for the water utility,” the city said in a press release. It said the city needs to charge more to cover debt service and various “drought-specific cost increases.”

Among other things, the city’s conservation budget has roughly doubled in the past two years, to around $2 million, Margetich said. That includes the cost of hiring inspectors to patrol neighborhoods for water waste and the city’s “cash-for-grass” program, she said.

Roseville officials said they plan to replace their tiered system, which charges higher per-gallon rates to heavier users, with a system that charges everyone the same for each gallon used.

Roseville residents have cut their water use by 38.5 percent since June, when mandatory statewide cutbacks ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown went into effect. The lower usage is in comparison with the same period two years ago.

The City Council will take up the issue Dec. 2. Public meetings on the topic are set for next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Martha Riley Library on Pleasant Grove Boulevard and Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Maidu Community Center on Maidu Drive.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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