Guest Column: There is no bailout, and water rates are going up
Tahoe City PUD Executive Editor
For the last 18 months, the Tahoe City Public Utility District has undertaken an open, transparent process to determine the rates needed to fund necessary infrastructure projects.
We hired independent experts, held 16 public meetings, mailed 24,000-plus newsletters, used sandwich board signs, sent e-mails and spoke at countless meetings.
Despite all of these efforts you may be confused. Some statements being circulated are not true. We are making this attempt to clarify before Wednesday’s protest hearing. It’s your decision. Please decide based on facts.
There is no bailout
Funds were never spent on projects other than what was intended. We have averaged $1.6 million annually for water and sewer projects. This isn’t adequate to address mandates and aging infrastructure.
Rates are going up
The transition to water meters will increase the amount that most of you pay, even if the proposed rates are protested. The existing metered rates are higher for most of you during 2009 and 2010. The proposed rates ease that transition.
Rates will fund $22 million in necessary projects
The projects will build water sources to address declining and failed wells; improve areas that don’t have adequate fire protection; replace a 50-year-old redwood tank with a new steel tank; and provide additional emergency power and security during heavy storms, floods and fire.
Operating costs reduced; belts have been tightened
The 2009 adopted budget plan is up only 2.1 percent over 2008. And if costs continue their current downward trend, even that will be further reduced.
Your board of directors, past and present, began addressing escalating operating costs long before the current economic downturn. A few examples are: Reducing medical benefits (2002); reducing salary adjustments (2004); capping post-retirement benefits (2006); and holding staff to the same level over 20 years despite increasing facilities, mandates and customers.
Proposed increases are the maximum; Board will consider reductions
Next week the board will continue their practice of adjusting expenditures and rates to meet current conditions. They will consider the cost cuts made since last fall and the potential to lower 2009 rate increases. This will continue annually and you are always invited to participate.
The rates are comparable with neighbors and businesses in adjoining communities.
See the comparison chart on the utility district’s website or online at SierraSun.com.
Your infrastructure needs significant investment
Some have down-played the situation, suggesting delays in the projects.
The Board visited the sites, studied in-depth, and chose only the most essential projects. Without the rates, projects will be delayed, risks will increase.
Whose neighborhood will have the next fire? Which well will fail and cause rationing or boil water notices?
The State has mandated some of the projects. Fire code mandates individual property owners deal with deficiencies unless we do. Other projects reduce unacceptable risks.
Now it is up to you. Check the facts, know the consequences.
Please review our website for more detailed information: http://www.tahoecitypud.com.
Call us, e-mail us, ask questions. We want you to have the correct information before the decision is final.
No matter the outcome of the community’s decision, utility district board and staff will continue to search for the most efficient and effective ways to meet your needs. We will continue to ask you to get informed and stay involved. Whichever way the protest goes.
Next week is not the end, it is the beginning.
Cindy Gustafson is the Tahoe City PUD Executive Director.
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