Mon12222014

News

Los Altos sewer fees increased third year in a row

Los Altos residents will be paying higher sewer fees for the third consecutive year beginning next month. The Los Altos City Council last week raised residential sewer rates $24 annually under the latest round of fee hikes. The average household will pay $21 per month or $252 a year - and, according to city staff, that's not the end of increases. The city is already anticipating higher fees in the future to fund capital projects outlined in the Master Sewer Plan set to be approved in August.

Some residents are challenging the legality of the increase. Resident Gerry Madea said the increase is illegal under California law unless voters approve it.

He called the city's decision taxation without representation.

"Increasing the sewer assessment is governed by Article 13D of the California Constitution - and since it doesn't conform to those requirements, any action taken ... can be deemed null and void."

Article 13D, or Proposition 218, requires that an increase in a property tax bill for a special assessment, including sewer rates, according to Madea, requires voter approval.

City Attorney Jolie Houston said the fee increases are service related rather than property related and not subject to 13D.

The city gave notice, held a public hearing and followed proper procedure, she added.

Under the increase, residents in the unincorporated area will pay $35.70 a month or $428.40 annually. That's 1.7 percent more than Los Altos residents.

City Manager Phil Rose couldn't explain the higher fees. He said the possible rationale behind the fees was to create an incentive for the unincorporated area to join the city and pay reduced fees.

Mountain View residents pay $16.95 per month; Los Altos Hills residents pay $47.53.

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