TDPUD offers insight into rate increase
The Truckee Donner Public Utility District has offered customers insight into proposed water rate increases for 2021-25, recently posting information via its website on why rates are set to go up.
The district, which unanimously approved of an action to propose new water rates during its Oct. 7 meeting, says it worked with independents consultants in order to set prices based on the actual cost of service, resulting in what amounts to roughly a $7 monthly increase for residents in 2021. Monthly rates will continue to increase yearly by about $7 through 2025.
“It’s to keep up with cost of service, to invest in long-term capital programs … it’s to maintain and build reserves, and to continue to provide the great products and services that we have today,” said Public Information and Strategic Affairs Director Steven Poncelet.
Water rates in California are set based on Proposition 218, which requires that rates be fixed based on actual cost-of-service. The district must also follow a public process that includes notification to parcel owners receiving water service, an opportunity to comment, and a public hearing, which will be held Dec. 2. Parcel owners must be given an opportunity to formally protest rate increases as well, which requires a majority to reject an increase. Written protests must be signed by the property owner, include the service address or assessor’s parcel number, and mailed, hand delivered, or emailed to the district clerk at 11570 Donner Pass Road.
During the process, Poncelet said the district has already heard much feedback from ratepayers on the increase, including questions on why consumption charges can’t be put in place or why second-home owners can’t be charged at a higher rate.
“That’s illegal in California under Prop. 218,” said Poncelet.
Those being served by the district in higher elevations also pay more due to the use of pumps to deliver water.
“That’s the cost of service part, but 85% of our costs are fixed and that’s having the system there, the maintenance, the service and everything it takes so that when you turn the faucet the water goes,” added Poncelet.
The district must also maintain fire flows in case of an emergency in which hydrants need to be utilized, and is why second-home owners that have their system turned off are still charged a fixed rate.
“We have a complex, mountainous water distribution system. We have 212 miles of piping that serves a pretty small customer base and we have to maintain fire flows, primarily,” said Poncelet.
“If we were only sizing for the residential and commercial use, our system would be a fraction of what it is now.”
In preparation for the proposed increase, the district worked with Farr West Engineering to create a water infrastructure 10-year capital improvement plan, and HDR Engineering on a water rate study.
The increase in rates is attributed to addressing needs such as protecting against catastrophic events, responding to unfunded state mandates, funding additional capital needs of the district, and maintaining the districts quality of service and programs. The new rates are projected to provide a year-over-year increase in annual water utility revenue of approximately $1.4 million. The increase also keeps Truckee below other rates in the region such as those at Northstar, Tahoe City and Olympic Valley.
In order to meet requirements of Proposition 218 the district will hold a public hearing at its regular meeting on Dec. 2, and then will adopt an ordinance setting new water utility rates, which would go into effect on Jan. 1.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com or 530-550-2643.
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