Category: Comparison of Rates
Last month the ETA ran a campaign to alert the city about the relationship between the water district and the City of Encinitas. Click here for the campaign background.
Here are some of the public comments from the Council Meeting.
The whole meeting can be viewed here (Feb 24, 2010).
I am writing to urge you to protest the planned water rate increase for San Dieguito Water District (SDWD). You can do that by filling out the attached protest form and mailing it to the Encinitas Taxpayers Association so that it gets there by February 24.
The problem with the rate increase, as I see it, is twofold. First, the City is shifting some of its expenses to the SDWD, which results in higher rates. Second, the SDWD gives developers, businesses and the City a discount on rates. This results in higher rates to homeowners.
To prove my point, compare the proposed SDWD rates with the rates charged by the Olivenhain Municipal Water District's (OMWD). (The proposed SDWD and existing OMWD rates are in the attachments.) The SDWD serves Western Encinitas. The OMWD serves Eastern Encinitas. [OMWD uses more imported water and should be more expensive.] But, the proposed SDWD rate for homeowners is more than 50% higher than the OMWD rate. The differential is even greater in a drought, like the one we are in now.
Back in January the ETA asked Mayor Dalager to speak with us, so that the ETA Board and members could ask him about the water rate increases and the relationship between the city and the water district. Dalager never responded.
An Encinitas resident recently forwarded us this response from Dalager. ETA comments are in italics:
People have been doing a good job of cutting back their water usage in response to the drought. It’s ironic, but as consumption of water goes down, fixed costs on everything from maintenance to debt service on the state system remains the same. Therefore, as usage declines, they charge us more per unit.
[Drought rates are going up ~20%, but so are non-drought rates (~13%/year). Mayor Dalager does not address this or the ETA’s main recommendations.]
I will not eat those costs and risk running this district into insolvency.
[We see no reason to think insolvency is an issue for the SDWD. The Council has already agreed to give raises this year and next year to SDWD staff and can afford to continue to issue generous pensions to its employees. More importantly, the water district has a rate stabilization fund, which should be used to keep rates from spiking. Times are tough and this is right time to use up the rate stabilization fund.]
Thank your lucky stars we and SFID (with whom we own Badger filtration plant) have water rights to Lake Hodges. The water from there costs us a fraction of state water. I have no intention of merging with some other district such as OMWD and having to share those rights.
[Because of this, we should wonder why OMWD water is cheaper than SDWD water. Merging with the OMWD would disadvantage SDWD customers. Dalager does not address the possibility of the SDWD merging with the SFID.]
Our district is run very efficiently and any cost savings would be more than offset by restricted access to our cheap local water.
[We do not know how Dalager measures efficiency and there is no reason to believe that if the council is not running the SDWD we would have to give up access to local water.]
Also, as much as I’ve looked at it, I have seen no upside to creating an extra level of bureaucracy that a second board would entail.
[The ETA has not suggested any new bureaucracy be created. However, it is correct that it would be necessary for the SDWD to hire its own legal counsel during negotiations with the City of Encinitas.]
We are in a very unique position; we have our own cheap, local supply. An increase in that is our real opportunity to get some rate relief. Pray for rain!
Mayor, City of Encinitas
[The increase in rates are not conditioned on water levels in Lake Hodges (our local supply). Perhaps, retail rates should be tied to Hodges water levels.]
From Jim Bond:
I do agree with you that we should reduce employees in the district and have done so with 2 employees retiring and no replacements for them.
[The city council did not discuss reduced staffing during the last budget adoption and it appears that at least one of those retirees is still working for the city as a contractor.]
As far as the cost of water goes, we have seen double digit increases for the last three years from our supplier, the San Diego County Water Authority who has not passed along the full increases to them from their supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. SDWD too, has not passed along the level of rate increases we have received from SDCWA.
[The ETA agrees that the ratepayers should pay for those costs. The ETA is also skeptical that the there has been a vigorous effort to contain expenditures and overhead costs at the region water agencies. The SDWD is is a member of those agencies.]
I agree that we should be cost effective and believe we could be a bit more so by subsuming the Water District into the City to reduce administrative/overhead costs just as we have with the old Fire District and the two Sanitary Districts; Encinitas and Cardiff.
[The way in which the City has absorbed the SDWD, it would be interesting to know which costs could be reduced. Note, the fire district does not generate revenue and the sanitation districts have very high charges compared to the Leucadia Water District, which covers part of Encinitas but is not run by the City Council.]