Council approves utility rate hike

Water, electric bills to see increase
By: Megan Wood The Press-Tribune
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Come summer, Roseville residents’ utility bills will land a little harder in mailboxes. The Roseville City council approved Environmental Utilities’ proposed rate increases and introduced Roseville Electric’s rate adjustments that, in some years, could increase customer’s’ bills by up to 5 percent. According to Electric Utility Director Tom Habashi, Roseville receives some of its electricity from hydroelectric resources, which are largely affected by water conditions. “The cost of those resources is fixed,” Habashi said. “Electricity isn’t generated if the water isn’t there, but we always pay regardless.” In a dry year a deficit in hydroelectric resources forces Roseville Electric to replace the energy at an increased market cost. Roseville Electric is recommending a yearly surcharge or credit of 1 to 5 percent to be evaluated and applied based on annual snow pack and water reports from the eight northern Sierra stations. “In an average year we receive about 52 inches,” Habashi said. “Currently we are looking at 46 inches, which would mean residents could expect a 2 percent or $1.90 increase.” Roseville Electric is also planning on reducing the floor of the rate stabilization fund, an account reserved to hedge increasing energy costs from 60 percent of operating costs to 40 percent. “We feel that the changes and the hydroelectric surcharge no longer require such a large reserve since we will be able to respond to deviations in costs faster,” said Vonette McCauley, Roseville Utilities public relations manager. Not all council members are in favor of the rate adjustments. Councilman John Allard expressed his concerns with the hydroelectric surcharge and how it resembles a rate stabilization fund. “You’re basically charging money when the supply is low and crediting money when supply is high and I think that it’s going to be too confusing and I’m not comfortable with it,” Allard said at last week’s meeting. In addition to rate adjustments, Roseville Electric is proposing to change the climate change mitigation fee from a flat $4 to a consumption-based fee for residential and small business customers. The impact on an average residential bill will be an increase of about 75 cents while apartment residents will see a reduction of about $1.60. If approved after second reading, those Green Roseville customers (who currently pay three times as much per kilowatt-hour for “green” energy from renewable resources) will be exempt from paying the climate change mitigation fee. Wendy Gerig, chief executive officer for the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of chamber members in support of the recommendations suggested by Roseville Electric. “It’s 50/50 the rates may go up or they’ll go down and we feel that it will be a wash,” Gerig said at Wednesday’s meeting. The motion was approved for first reading with three votes with Allard dissenting and Pauline Roccucci absent from the meeting. Besides the electric rate adjustment, council approved Environmental Utilities’ request to implement a 5.2 percent overall rate increase for 2009 and a 5.3 percent increase in 2010 for water, wastewater and solid waste. Residents and businesses will see the first of these increases in May. A household using 1,900 cubic feet of water can expect their combined monthly bill to be $73.61 as opposed to their current bill of $69.95. In 2010, the average consumer will see their bill jump $3.88, to $77.49. “There are comments that we charge less than any other place in the area,” Roseville resident Phil Ozenick told council members. “We don’t care about the other places. We care about Roseville. I’m asking that the second year not be in tandem with this coming year. Things change.” For the 5 percent of Roseville customers who are considered “excessive water users,” a fourth rate tier has been added. Those consuming more than 7,500 cubic feet of water will be charged an additional $1.46 per 100 cubic feet. To promote water conservation, Environmental Utilities will implement an additional temporary increase to water rates based on declared drought stages to offset decreased revenue. The rates in the top two tiers of high and excessive water users increase at an additional amount as an incentive to customers to conserve water. According to a survey released by the Chamber of Commerce, this adjustment did not sit well with local business owners and Gerig told the council the Chamber would not support them. “These rates will affect businesses negatively, “ said Scott Alvord, A Dash of Panache owner and President of Downtown Roseville’s merchant’s group. “Businesses especially are barely hanging on right now. “Really think carefully if we really need an increase this steep for the business owners,” he advised council. The measure was passed three to one with Allard issuing a dissenting vote and Pauline Roccucci absent Wednesday night.