Board approves new water-rate structure

Proposed rates mean savings for some, but overall increase

Board approves new  water-rate structureBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Water District voted to continue with a 4-tiered water rate structure during it’s Monday meeting. Mark Hildebrand, representing Stantec and Hildebrand Consulting, gave a presentation outlining the district’s current rates and potential rate options that would factor in a three-percent rate increase.

A recent rate study resulted in the district implementing an annual rate increase over the next four years. But according to the current plan, most customers will see a small monthly savings due to reduced fixed charges and increased water costs.

The bulk of the district’s customers currently pay a monthly ready-to-serve charge of $41.41 for a 3/4” meter and $.56 per hundred acre feet (748 gallons) for tier-1 water, $.88/HCF for tier 2, $2.40/HCF for tier 3 and $4.92/HCF for tier 4.

Hildebrand proposed several options, ranging from four tiers to a single, uniform rate. The board ultimately opted for the 4-tier option as it’s most similar to the current structure.

The proposed changes maintains a similar structure with small changes, which includes “widening” tier-1 users from 7 HCF per month to 9 HCF per month. New rates are $38.25 for the ready-to-serve charge, $.74/HCF for tier-1 water, $1.24/HCF for tier 2, $2.40 for tier 3 and $4.92 for tier 4.

Rates are slightly higher for 1”-meter users and increase with meter size. The full report is available through the meeting agenda at iwvwd.com/board-of-directors/

board-meeting-agendas. Rates do reflect the Groundwater Sustainability’s valley-wide pumping fee which amounts to roughly $.07/HCF for district customers.

Most of 3/4”- and 1”-meter users (which make up roughly 98 percent of the district’s customers) can expect a slight decrease in their bill, with most of the district’s additional revenue coming from larger-metered and higher-tiered users.

Board Vice President Chuck some of his concerns with the proposed structure arguing that it doesn’t address that tier-3 and -4 users are “subsidizing” the costs of tier-1 and -2 users.

Griffin voiced some of his concerns with the proposed structure arguing that it doesn’t address that tier-3 and -4 users are “subsidizing” the costs of tier-1 and -2 users.

“I just don’t think we can justify it, especially the tier-4 rates,” said Griffin. “You can still buy water from a fire hydrant cheaper than you can buy it at your home.”

Director Chuck Cordell agreed to some extent, adding he would like to see the tiers “evened out a little bit more.

“I think all of our customers need to be treated the same,” said Cordell. “And they’re not if 80 percent of them are seeing a reduction.”

But Director Peter Brown said the board doesn’t have the authority to adjust rates without a Proposition 218 hearing, where the district “has to justify every penny.”

“I like the way our system works,” said Brown. “I like the predictability and that’s the entire point of putting all of our fixed costs in front. I don’t want to be intrusive, I just want to cover our costs.”

“If you elect to go into tier 4, that’s your choice,” said Kicinski, who supported the proposed structure. “If you like to have the bigger lawn, have a pool, you’re paying for it. I don’t think people should be paying more in tiers 1 and 2.”

The item passed 4-1, with Griffin as the dissenting vote. Hildebrand will work with staff to present a report for the board’s October meeting where, if approved, will proceed to a Prop. 218 public hearing.

In discussions of future plans, both Griffin and Director Don Cortichiato said they would like more in-depth presentations on budget-based rates.

The idea of budget-based rates is to customize water bills based on the number of residents, lot size, irrigation needs and other factors.

The IWV Water District meets on the second Monday of each month, 6 p.m. at the district office.

For more information about future meetings visit district website at iwvwd.com.

Story First Published: 2018-09-14