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Davis

Davis, California

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Sewer and water rates expected to go up this summer

While sewer and water rates are expected to go up this summer, the city will first discuss the details of the 2010-2011 General Fund budget.

The Davis City Council voted to postpone a public hearing on the rate increases until May 25, which is also the date for the new fiscal year’s final budget adoption.

The city expects to collect approximately $12 million for sewer and $11 million for water.

If approved, sewer rates will go up by approximately $1.23 per month for the average single-family home during the winter season. Single-family homes currently account for approximately 51 percent of sewer revenues, according to the city staff report.

Water rates would increase by $1.76 per month, for the average single-family home, which accounts for approximately 58 percent of water revenues.

The new rates would be effective Aug. 1.

Sue Gedestad, assistant Public Works director, said the rate increases are necessary to generate revenue for operations and maintenance. Specifically, sewer revenues will fund the Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project, a task she said the city has pursued for over six years.

Improvements are necessary at the plant in order to comply with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit that is issued by the state of California, Gedestad said.

“The permit dictates the quality of the water we are discharging out of the wastewater treatment plant,” she said.

Additionally, water revenues will fund the ongoing Woodland-Davis surface water project.

Water and sewer revenues are collected in funds that can only be used for the respective utilities projects.

Money from the sewer and water revenues will go toward operations, maintenance, repairs and replacements. Sewer revenue will also contribute to wastewater treatment, while water revenue will contribute to the surface water project.

Councilmember Stephen Souza said the postponement to May 25 was made because some councilmembers wanted to examine the operating and management portions of these budgets and see if the rate increases could be lowered.

Ninety percent of the rate increases are associated with capital improvements, while only 10 percent is associated with operations and management.

Souza said the surface water component of the projects would help to lower sewer rates in the coming years.

“That [surface water] that goes down the sewer drain will be better than what we have going down currently,” he said.

Surface water has much lower salinity and alkalinity than groundwater, meaning that in future years the city will not have to pay to remove salt or adjust the pH of sewer water to comply with state regulations, Souza said.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek said that with every incremental rate increase, no matter how modest, there is a cumulative effect.

“[The rate increases] could turn into a significant increase five years from now,” he said.

Heystek said that the issue is not about whether one is for or against these projects, but rather evaluating their scope and timing. Heystek favored postponement of the public hearing in order to get a clearer picture on the overall budget.

Students living in apartment complexes in Davis may not necessarily see a monthly water bill.

“Students have to be mindful that they pay water and sewer rates through monthly rent, so it’s just as relevant to them as single-family homes,” Heystek said.

Max Connor, a co-owner of the Laundry Lounge on 1801 Hanover Dr., said the rate increases will make it more difficult to run his small business.

“I am frustrated because [the city’s] only solution is just to tax the taxpayer,” he said. “We have absolutely no say whatsoever.”

While Connor agreed with Souza in that the surface water project will help reduce sewer rates long-term, he said that his business would be adversely affected by the short-term increases to help fund the project.

“I am a small business owner and I can’t wait 15 years for the sewer rates to go down a bit,” he said.

CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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