My Turn: Respectfully, I protest |

My Turn: Respectfully, I protest

I wanted to add to the coverage of the protest against the Tahoe City Public Utilities District rate increases.

At the center of the controversy are the proposed rate rises for 2009 and 2010. Looking at the TCPUD water rate increases since 2007, they seem to be spiraling out of control.

– Rates went up by 5 percent in 2007;

– tates went up by 17.5 percent in 2008;

– the Board voted 4-1 in December for a 27.5% average increase in rates its 2009 Budget; and

– the Board accepted the HDR Report, which recommends rate increases of up to 18 percent in 2010

This is a compounded 86 percent average rate rise over four years (2007-10). This increase seems excessive, and has made me question for the first time whether the current TCPUD Board and management really have their business and their costs under control.

Our economy today is in a dire state, and the proposed rate rises do not seem to recognize this obvious fact.One-in-10 Californians do not have a job, many Californians are facing foreclosure on their homes, and state employees are now furloughed for two days a month.

Sadly, these same grim statistics are reflected amongst our friends and neighbors here on the west shore. By most measures, the recession is now the worst for at least 35 years. This is not the year to raise water rates by more than a quarter.

Therefore the Board needs to accept that some of the required infrastructure spending must be funded by cuts in TCPUD operating expenses. The TCPUD Board has stated that we must spend millions of dollars to upgrade key infrastructure, and that it must happen this year.

If this is true, and given the dire economic climate, then the TCPUD must really tighten its belt. It does not make sense to increase operating expenses by 7 percent this year, including a budgeted increase in employee salaries and benefits of 9 percent.

Instead, the Board needs to find ways ” and quickly ” to reduce its operating expenses below projected 2008 levels.

However, the Board has been unwilling so far to show spending restraint in response to the dire economic situation. It has chosen again to force through large rate rises. I believe that this is a huge mistake, and it has offended many struggling customers and voters.

I’d like to see the Board develop a new plan for the next two years that acknowledges the current economic problems and acknowledges the financial pressures that now exist on you and me. Without such a new plan, the Board leaves us all with only one option, and that is to protest the rate rises under the 218 process ” which you can do by writing to the TCPUD District Clerk by Feb. 24.

I am protesting the currently planned rate rises. I invite you to do the same.

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