The Los Altos City Council last week adopted a resolution of intent that proposes incremental annual sewer-service fee hikes as part of a new five-year rate study.
The rate analysis report – completed by city-hired consultant Harris & Associates – comes after the council in April approved a change in the way Los Altos residents are charged for sewer services.
As previously reported in the April 17 issue of the Town Crier, the city opted to use a new hybrid charge method that includes an annual base charge plus sewer-use charges. The city previously relied on a method based solely on a parcel’s sewer use.
At the time, a staff report noted that the change was necessary to cover fixed maintenance and administrative costs for the city’s sewer system – pointing to water conservation efforts by residents that resulted in lower sewer charges than anticipated. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, 36 percent of Los Altos parcels paid less than $240 annually under the previous rate method.
According to Los Altos Public Works Director Jim Gustafson, a portion of the revenue generated will apply toward expanding and upgrading the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The plant has operated since 1934 and serves Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Stanford.
“The new method will affect users differently,” said Gustafson, noting that some parcels with low sewer-use charges would likely see an increase in annual rates.
According to the staff report, the new five-year rate schedule calls for a base annual charge to all city parcels of $209 beginning in fiscal year 2013-2014, accompanied by a sewer-use fee rate of $1.66 per service unit – which equates to 100 cubic feet of sewage (748 gallons). The median single-family parcel generates 110 sewer units based on winter consumption, resulting in an annual combined sewer charge of $391.60.
The report also outlined incremental rate increases for both fixed and sewer-use charges throughout the five-year schedule. The final year would include an annual base charge of $261.35 plus sewer-use rates that had increased to $2.07 per sewer service unit.
Gustafson said the increases for the average ratepayer equate to approximately 7 percent annually over the life of the schedule.
Gustafson noted that the council’s approval activates the state’s Proposition 218 notification requirements. The city will mail notices to all affected property owners, offering them an opportunity to submit written protests against the fee increases.
The city has scheduled the first reading of the rate ordinance June 11 and a public hearing July 9 for written protests, before the decision on the rate ordinance becomes final.