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City scene: Proposed utility rate changes have nothing to do with annexation

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom City Manager
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Folsom utility customers recently received a notice about a public hearing relating to proposed utility rate changes. Due to a mail delivery problem, some residents did not receive that notice 45 days in advance as required by law. Therefore, we have postponed the public hearing. We will present the rate changes to the City Council on Sept. 27, followed by the public hearing on Oct. 11. Rate payers may speak at either of the meetings. If approved by the City Council, the new rates would take effect in December. City staff is proposing a two-year rate adjustment for residential and commercial customers. The proposal includes a $4 monthly increase for residential water use, no change in sewer rates or commercial solid waste collection, and an increase in rates for rental of large roll-off trash bins. ‘ The proposed rate changes also include citywide water meter rates that will take effect in January 2013 when state mandates require us to switch from a flat water rate to a meter rate. We understand that this is a difficult economic time for many and we have been reluctant to propose any rate increases. For the past four years, we have postponed critical construction projects to rehabilitate and repair our existing system. These projects are vital to help us avoid emergency repairs that could potentially be very costly. The proposed increases would allow us to complete those projects and also allow us to meet state regulatory requirements for reducing consumption of water. It has been rumored that the water rate increases are tied to development of the land south of Highway 50. I assure you that there is no connection. The developers and future residents of that area will bear the full cost of water and infrastructure in coming years as required by Measure W. The proposed residential metered water rates would take effect in January 2013. At that time, all residents will begin paying a monthly base rate, plus a commodity rate based upon actual water usage. This structure is similar to the gas and electric bills we all pay. To help you prepare for the switch from a flat to meter rates, we will offer several tools. Your 2012 utility bills will include both a flat rate bill for payment, and an informational bill showing the actual volume of water used and the amount that would be billed under meter rates. We are hopeful that this one year comparative billing program will help you reduce water usage to avoid paying higher amounts for water use. We invite you to call for a free in-home consultation by our water conservation experts (355-7252) to learn how to adjust sprinklers and make other changes than can impact your water bill. We will also support your conservation efforts by offering on-line water use data for your property starting in 2012. Folsom’s water rates are lower than a majority of our neighboring communities. Even after the proposed water increases, Folsom would have the fourth lowest water rate of 13 nearby water agencies. We have kept rates low by instituting many cost saving measures and streamlining operations to improve efficiency. Water conservation is, and will continue to be, very important. Recent state laws require cities to optimize water usage through conservation and repairs of system leaks and waste. We must comply or face the risk of losing valuable state and federal grants that support key water projects. It is essential that we all do our part to conserve. If you have questions about the proposed water rates, please call the city’s Water Division at 351-3361 or Utility Billing at 355-7295. Folsom City Manager Kerry Miller can be reached at kmiller@folsom.ca.us.