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Council approves utility rate increase

Public workshop on city's 2011-12 budget takes place Monday
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Residents will see bigger amounts due on their water and garbage bills, following Roseville City Council’s unanimous approval of utility rate increases Wednesday.

Unless, of course, residents conserve more water and produce less trash.

But after residents at the meeting expressed concern over the financial impact of the new rates, the council slashed one of the increases in half. The council voted 4-0 in favor of cutting the proposed solid waste increase from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. This will save residents about 35 cents a month.

Councilman John Allard was absent from the meeting.

Water rates will increases 9.5 percent in 2011 and 8.5 percent in 2012. Solid waste will jump 1.5 percent in 2011 and 1.5 percent in 2012. The new rate goes into effect on the August bill this year, and the July bill next year.

Currently, the typical monthly residential bill is $77.49. With the increase, the bill will be about $83 in 2012.

Councilman Tim Herman said he understood the financial impact, as he owns a house and runs two dentistry businesses in Roseville.

“I pay it three times,” Herman said. “So I don’t do that lightly when looking at rate increases.”

Roseville owns and operates water, sewer and garbage utilities. The city’s Environmental Utilities department proposed the increases for water and solid waste to cover the cost of providing service. The city will not raise wastewater rates for the next two years, said Environmental Utilities Director Derrick Whitehead.

The proposed increase underwent two third-party peer reviews to validate the rate study and methodology analysis, and both found the proposal appropriate, Whitehead said. On March 22, the Public Utilities Commission voted 5-1 in favor of recommending the proposal be approved by the City Council.

The city received 59 letters protesting the increase. Four people spoke against the proposal during the meeting.

Several factors contribute to the need for an increase, Whitehead said, including meeting the conditions of unfunded state water-conservation mandates, and building up a rehabilitation fund to support the $1.1 billion worth of infrastructure operated by Environmental Utilities.

Another factor involves paying for the salaries of six employees who have worked on the water meter retrofit project for the past 11 years — paid for by a tax surcharge — who will soon be brought back into the department’s budget. This bothers some residents.

“I think this (rate increase) is to save jobs,” said resident Mike Couvrette. “I don’t think that’s justified considering the economic conditions we're now facing."

Courvette asked the city to “do more with less.”

Whitehead said the department has been running “lean” for the past three or four years in anticipation of eventually absorbing this staff. He said eliminating these people, who possess deep “institutional knowledge,” would reduce levels of service for residents.

Without the increases, the water and solid waste operations funds would have estimated deficits of $10.2 million and $1.4 million respectively in 2014-15 fiscal year, Whitehead said.

The proposed rate adjustment will result in an estimated additional combined revenue of about $4.9 million to the water utility over the next two fiscal years and about $1.8 million to the solid waste utility for the same period.

In other news, city staff presented the proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year to the council. A copy of the line-item budget is available for review in the city clerk’s office at Civic Center, 311 Vernon St. The City Council will host a budget workshop from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 6, in the council chambers at Civic Center. The public is invited to attend.

Here’s a look at some items approved during the June 1 Roseville City Council meeting:

Application for federal hiring grant: Roseville Police Department will apply for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program. The grant must be used to reorient the mission and activities of law enforcement agencies toward community policing, including community partnerships, problem solving and organizational transformation.

If awarded, the grant provides $644,112 in federal funds over three years to fully fund the salary and benefits of two entry-level police officers who must be retained for at least one year after funding ends, at a cost of $122,266. The grant doesn’t cover start-up costs, such as uniforms, equipment and vehicles. First-year expenses would include a patrol vehicle and other supplies at an estimated cost of $76,916. Ongoing annual expenses will be an estimated $21,793.

Supplemental law enforcement fund spending plan: Each year, the state of California transfers money to local governments for the California Supplemental Law Enforcement Funding, aka Citizen’s Option for Public Safety, to fund front line law enforcement purposes. The state will transfer an estimated $100,000 to Roseville, which staff proposes to use to support one patrol officer position in 2012.

Budget adjustment for emergency project: Rainstorms in late March damaged the foundation of the pedestrian bridge that spans Dry Creek near the Downtown Library and Royer Park. The bridge was immediately closed to the public, and required immediate stabilization efforts. A structural engineering consultant has since deemed the bridge insufficient to allow safe passage of pedestrians.

Repairing the foundation is cost-prohibitive and the bridge does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act, so it will be removed at an estimated cost of $37,810.

Amendment to contract for residential demand response program: In summer 2007, Roseville Electric implemented a program called “Power Partners” so residents can help reduce peak energy use during hot summer months. Residents agree to have wireless controls attached to their homes with switches to cycle air conditioners on and off for short intervals during critical peak periods.

The amendment extends the contract with Comverge, the program’s hosting service, through Oct. 15. This amendment has a not-to-exceed amount of $14,000, which may be offset through program energy savings.

Grants Advisory Commission recommendations for 2011-12: The city will fund grants for 50 out of 62 qualified applicants in the amount of $583,155. The majority of that comes from the Citizen’s Benefit Fund ($499,655), $58,500 from the REACH Fund and $25,000 from the Roseville Automall Community Fund.

Water supply assessment for Cinemark development: The 59-acre project is expected to require 211.5 acre feet per year (AFY) of water. Build-out water demands are estimated to reach 62,609 AFY. Based on projected water supplies over a 20-year period, the city will have sufficient water to meet the needs of this development.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.