Tahoe utility one step closer to rate hike | SierraSun.com

Tahoe utility one step closer to rate hike

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Citing an ever-widening gap between available revenues and the cost of operation, Tahoe City utility officials on Friday adopted the higher of the proposed rate increases for water and sewer customers.

In adopting a $7.9 million operating budget for the Tahoe City Public Utility District’s 2008 calendar year, directors approved a 17.5 percent water rate increase and a 5 percent sewer rate increase.

Three of the four directors at Friday’s meeting agreed to go with the higher rates proposed to the board by staff on Nov. 9. The staff had recommended a range of water rate increases from 7 to 17 percent, and a 4 percent sewer rate hike.

“It costs what it costs,” said board President Lou Reinkens, indicating the utility routinely spends more than it takes in.

The spending plan adopted Friday identified $9.6 million in expected revenues, but listed additional costs for debt servicing and capital expenditures.

District staff provided directors with graphs outlining the utility’s operating deficit. Last year spending on routine maintenance and upgrades outstripped revenue by $300,000 in the sewer department and more than $200,000 for water service.

At the last minute, Director Dan Wilkins proposed an additional 1 percent increase in sewer rates over staff’s recommendation, increasing the current rate by 5 percent.

The lone dissenter, Director Ron Treabess, the lone dissenter, said he was not against the 1 percent increase, but for more discussion and perhaps a larger increase.

“I just didn’t think [the increase] was thoroughly thought out,” Treabess said. “Why don’t we go up to 6 percent ” why not 10?”

Treabess said the increases translates to an additional $173,000 in water revenue and $70,000 in sewer funds.

The new rates, if approved, would not go into effect until April 2008. General Manager Bob Lourey said quarterly bills would increase by $19.55 for water and $2.52 for sewer.

District customers will be given the chance to protest the rate hike verbally during future board meetings, and in written form anytime. For more information call the Tahoe City Public Utility District 530-3796.

Treabess said the increased water rate would allow more equitable spending of property tax revenues. He explained that some district residents pay property taxes but do not receive water service from the district, thereby subsidizing the district’s water customers.