Los Altos residents will be paying 3% more for sewer services next fiscal year, following city council sign-off on charges for 2021-2022 at the council’s June 8 meeting.

The council adopted a resolution in support of sewer service charges and charges for tax collection. The city’s municipal code authorizes charges to fund costs associated with running the sanitary sewer system. An ordinance passed in 2018 established sewer rates for a five-year period beginning in 2018-2019.

“The rates increase annually through the five-year period to reflect historic trends in inflation associated with the sewer system,” according to a city staff report.

“These rates are necessary to cover all the payments due to (use of) the Palo Alto wastewater treatment plant,” said Aida Fairman, engineering services manager.

Councilmember Lynette Lee Eng wondered whether Los Altos seniors on fixed incomes could get a break from the proposed increases. She also asked if the 922 Los Altos Hills properties using Los Altos sewer lines were paying proportionate fees considering the town’s larger lots.

“If we reduce rates for a certain class of users, the other users would have to subsidize that (reduction), which would be a violation of Proposition 218” (a 1996 initiative restricting use of property-related fees), said City Attorney Jolie Houston. “We have to pay a proportionate share. We cannot just drop some users and have other users pay for it.”

Vice Mayor Anita Enander pointed to the city spending $1 million more annually for sewer services than revenues generated.

“When we have a new finance chief on board, I would like to do a deeper dive into the sewer plan,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s sustainable.”

The council adopted the resolution unanimously.