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ETA Urges Opposition to SDWD Rate Hike
Encinitas Taxpayers Association to Oppose SDWD Rate Hike
Will Also Seek Board Seats for Non-councilmembers
ENCINITAS—In anticipation of a decision by the San Dieguito Water District (SDWD) to raise water rates, the Encinitas Taxpayers Association (ETA) is launching a grassroots campaign to defeat those rate hikes. As part of that effort, the ETA is also organizing an initiative to open up the SDWD board to non-councilmembers.
“It’s never a good time to increase water rates, but doing so in the midst of the worse economic downturn in at least a generation is particularly bad timing,” said Joe Sheffo, president of the ETA. “That aside, the rate hikes would be a bit more palatable if the body making that decision included independent ratepayers, not just councilmembers. We hope to address both issues through this effort.”
Earlier this month, SDWD announced that it would be raising water rates at least 13%. The action is said to be necessary because of the increased costs of water generally and the need for substantial upgrades to the district's treatment plant, which it jointly owns with Santa Fe Irrigation District. Under Prop 218, however, ratepayers can undo rate hikes if 50% of them disapprove.
Under current law, the district’s board consists of the five members of the Encinitas City Council. This is contrary to many water districts, which are made up of at least some independent members. The district serves Leucadia, Old Encinitas, Cardiff and parts of New Encinitas.
The ETA’s concerns about transparency at the SDWD stem from questionable financial transactions between it and the city that raise serious questions about the management practices of both. These transactions are believed to include various real estate deals, bond offerings, internal billing practices, and personnel assignments.
“The SDWD has operated in a budgetary black hole that makes transparency nearly impossible for a regular citizen,” said Kevin Cummins, vice president of the ETA. “Despite that opaqueness, we have been able to piece together many areas where the SDWD is vulnerable to misuse by the City. This is the right time to open up the district to independent oversight.”
Those living in parts of the city served by SDWD should expect visits from ETA members and others over the next few weeks. Ratepayers will be asked to complete and submit a postcard that will then be presented to the board at its Feb 24 meeting at City Hall.
Founded in 1986, the Encinitas Taxpayers Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to ensuring transparency and accountability from the city of Encinitas and its councilmembers,