News


Pleasanton water, sewer rates could increase this fall

City Council approves taking proposed changes for public review

The City Council voted Tuesday to start the public review process to consider increasing water and sewer rates.

The vote followed a study that showed that during the past five years, the city was undercharging water customers, capturing only 87% of the costs associated with purchasing water from Zone 7.

Enterprise operations such as water and sewer are supposed to be fully-funded by ratepayers, not by taxpayers.

Even wit the proposed increases, Pleasanton will continue to have the lowest combined water and sewer rates in the Bay Area.

Due to the ongoing drought, state mandates to reduce potable water consumption by 20% per capita over the next five years, and the need to replace and repair aging infrastructure, water and sewer rates will likely increase in October by 6% and 3% respectively.

Seniors, who currently receive a 20% discount on their water bills, will receive a 15% discount going forward, if the proposal passes. There will be no change for Pleasanton's income-eligible residents, who will continue to see the full 30% discount they currently receive.

These proposals, which were given a thumbs-up Tuesday by the City Council, will be discussed at neighborhood and other meetings in the next two months before going before the council again Oct. 6 for a final vote.

Emily Wagner, retired finance director who has stayed on to handle revisions to the city's water policies and other financial issues, said the higher rates are needed to offset water and sewer costs not fully covered by ratepayers.

If fully implemented, bills will increase on average $5.37 per month for water and sewer rates effective Oct. 15. Seniors will receive a 15% discount, but only if their water consumption does not exceed 20Ccf in a bi-monthly billing period.

Even though some water customers experienced a surcharge during the drought if they exceeded their allowable limit, Pleasanton has only been routinely charging its customers 87.5% of the cost of purchased water from Zone 7, which provides drinking water to the city.

"While the city has been able to absorb these increases, by not passing through 100% of the Zone 7 rate, this is now placing a significant strain on the city's water enterprise, which over the years has not been, nor should be, reliant on the General Fund to operate," Wagner said.

To meet a state requirement that any utility that has an annual cost of living increase in its utility rates review those rates every five years, the city hired HDR Engineering, Inc. to undertake a comprehensive water and sewer rate study.

The study showed that not only is the city falling behind on meeting its 100% ratepayer funding of its water and sewer collection system, it charges far less that neighboring cities for the same services.

For customers using 20 Ccf of water during a typical bi-monthly billing period, Pleasanton users would pay $65.62, compared to $81.92 in Livermore and $97.94 in Dublin.

For those using 40 Ccf, considered moderate consumption, Pleasanton ratepayers would pay $120.78, while Livermore customers pay $160.22 and Dublin $170.36.

For high users at 60 Ccf, Pleasanton ratepayers would pay $180.43, with Livermore at $265.90 and Dublin at $247.96.

Bi-monthly sewer bills show Pleasanton customers would pay$77.28, compared to $86.76 in Livermore and a lower rate of $63.73 in Dublin.

Wagner said the staffing, chemicals and electrical costs are higher than Dublin's due to charges associated with pumping Pleasanton sewerage to the Dublin San Ramon Services District treatment plant on Stoneridge Drive next to I-680.

Although the proposed 6.7% rate increase will help Pleasanton achieve a 100% pass-through to cover its operating costs, council members recommended doing more to encourage greater conservation. Councilman Jerry Pentin won support with his proposal to reduce the current 20% discount for residents at least 65 years old to 15%, although the 30% discount given to low-income residents will stay.

The council also endorsed a proposal to lower the allowable consumption to qualify for the senior and income-eligible discounts from 40Ccf to 20, which Wagner said the national average consumption is 23Ccf. A 100 cubic foot of water, Ccf, equates to 748 gallons. A residential customer who uses 30 Ccf of water during a typical 60-day billing period is consuming 22,440 gallons.

At Wagner's request, the council also reviewed suggested additional drought rates that could be assessed only upon additional Council action, if the drought continues and cutbacks in water consumption fail to meet operating expense requirements at the city's water department. Drought rates and their implementation will be discussed in the future when there's a need for additional revenue.

Comments

15 people like this
Posted by PtownMom
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 22, 2015 at 8:08 am

Less water for more money?


2 people like this
Posted by Chris47
a resident of Valley Trails
on Jul 22, 2015 at 8:24 am

Chris47 is a registered user.

How did I not know about senior discounts?


10 people like this
Posted by Kyrridwen
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 22, 2015 at 8:38 am

Does this mean that they will use the extra funds to actually do something proactive like additional supply storage so that when the next drought happens they will be prepared??


19 people like this
Posted by Public Extortion
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2015 at 9:11 am

This is so typical. Conserve and be penalized. Don't conserve and be penalized. Oh, and I'm sure that if we have a few wet winters and the mandatory restrictions are lifted people will consume more water and they will lower the rates, right? Total bullsnot.


4 people like this
Posted by Jo
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jul 22, 2015 at 9:17 am

the article states water &a sewer rates to increase. Are they not 2 separate rates? How will sewer rates be affected?


9 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jul 22, 2015 at 9:41 am

"The council also endorsed a plan to lower the allowable consumption rate before heavy-use charges are imposed from 40Ccf to 20, which Wagner said is a low-use rate."

I'm confused by this part. According to my water bill, surcharges and penalties kick in when 30 ccf per billing period is exceeded, not 40 ccf. The limit before surcharges/penalties was 40 ccf last year.

A 30 ccf limit is manageable, but a 20 ccf limit is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people.


2 people like this
Posted by Long-time Resident
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jul 22, 2015 at 11:35 am

Damon, I was asking the same question. Now if you don't meet the 20 Ccf, they get you to pay the penalties. This way they make more money. This is the classic squeeze - damn it if you do, damn it if you don't.


5 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Country Fair
on Jul 22, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Why do we always move to raise rates and not cut costs??? I am sure there is a lot of "fat on the bone" Typical government entity. Corporations understand this........personal budgets understand this? I vote to look internally to the excess that can get cut prior to raising rates. I shower with a bucket in very morning and use reclaimed water to water my lawns. My water bill was still $200 so I can't get where you come up with those status. Maybe an audits do...........


3 people like this
Posted by kbenson
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Jul 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm

@Kyrridwen

They will use the increase to fatten wallets. Nothing will be done to increase storage and or route recycle lines to parks.

And like someone else already mentioned- rates will increase but never decrease.


2 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jul 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm

@Steve: "I shower with a bucket in very morning and use reclaimed water to water my lawns. My water bill was still $200 so I can't get where you come up with those status."

Since the water company has large fixed costs like salaries and maintenance regardless of how much water it actually delivers, of course the price of water on a per unit or per gallon basis has to increase if everyone is using less water. That's expected. I know it's aggravating, but if you look at the price of water as being dominated by large fixed costs which have to be about equally divvied up among all users then it makes a bit more sense what's happening.

You mentioned that your water bill was "still $200", which I take to mean that although your per unit or per gallon cost of water has gone up, that your total bill is about the same as before. If your example is typical of most Pleasanton water users, then that means that the water company's revenue isn't dramatically increasing despite the fact that it is charging more per unit of water. Whether the water company could do more to reduce their fixed costs now that they are delivering much less total water to everyone is a good question that I don't know the answer to.


Like this comment
Posted by PTown Mom
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 22, 2015 at 2:45 pm

This doesn't take into consideration how many people live in your home vs. what your consumption is. We're a family of 5, and we're currently exempt from the mandatory reduction because we ALREADY conserve. So what now? We do with LESS? There are going to be a lot of smelly people around...


Like this comment
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Chris47, don't get excited, it's usually not enough to buy and ice cream cone.


6 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jul 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Whoa! I just noticed that the PW quietly re-edited their article so that the sentences I noted in my first post referring to "heavy-use charges" (i.e., penalty charges?) above 20 ccf per billing cycle no longer exist. Now the section reads as follows:

"The council also endorsed a proposal to lower the allowable consumption to qualify for the senior and income-eligible discounts from 40Ccf to 20, which Wagner said the national average consumption is 23Ccf."

That's a big difference in meaning. So, PW, there is no proposal on the table to put in a hard surcharge/penalty at 20 ccf per billing cycle? Is the proposal for the surcharge/penalty to remain at 30 ccf per billing cycle, or is the idea to replace the surcharge/penalties with a tiered pricing system?


18 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

If rates are going to be increased, the costs must be decreased.

It is not fair that senior citizens pay the rate increase twice each billing period when all other residents pay the rate increase only once each billing period.

Senior citizens live on fixed income and should not be abused by Jerry Pentin and his suggestion to double bill the senior citizens, by way of reducing the senior discount from 20% to 15% and also charging a rate increase on average $10.73 to each senior citizen each billing period.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a felony.


1 person likes this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jul 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm

@Michael Austin: "Financial abuse of the elderly is a felony."

Are you seriously trying to suggest that reducing the senior discount from 20% to 15% is a form of felony "elder abuse"? BTW, any low-income elderly can continue to claim the 30% income-eligible resident discount.


1 person likes this
Posted by senior
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 22, 2015 at 5:15 pm

City of Pleasanton Water currently has senior discount but must be less than 40 units and percentage is greater - so reduce usage to qualify to pay more but at the reduce rate.

We discovered that Pleasanton Garbage had a senior discount and they told us about the senior discount for water. Would have been nice to know when spouse became a senior.


Like this comment
Posted by questionToSenior
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Jul 22, 2015 at 5:33 pm

@senior (Not to hijack this thread, sorry to all) I could not find anything on Pleasanton Garbage Service web site about their senior discount; how old do they require you to be to be a "senior" thanks


2 people like this
Posted by Full Disclosure
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Jul 22, 2015 at 5:37 pm

In order to implement the proposed rate increases and the changes in the rate
structures, Proposition 218 requires the City to publish and mail a 45 day notice of said
increases and /or structural changes to the rates to all water and sewer customers and
hold a public hearing to adopt the proposed rates. In addition to the required notices,
the City as part of its standard operating procedures is proposing to publish an
additional notice of the public hearing regarding the rate changes ten days in advance
of the public hearing proposed to be scheduled on October 6, 2015 as outlined in the
schedule shown below. Finally, staff is planning to hold several workshops for the
public to receive more information regarding the proposed rate increases and to meet
with the Economic Vitality Committee of the City and the Chamber of Commerce to
discuss the impacts on the business community.
The following is the proposed schedule of events:
Date
July 21
Action
Mail Proposition 218 Notice to all water and sewer customers
July 22 Publish 45 day notice of the Public Hearing scheduled for October
6, 2015
August 5 and 20 Hold public workshops regarding proposed water and sewer rate
increases ( evenings)
August 20 and 26 Meet with the Economic Vitality Committee of the City and the
Chamber of Commerce regarding proposed water and sewer rate
increases
October 6 Hold Public Hearing and consider proposed rate increases

Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 22, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

@Damon:

Yes!

Jerry Pentin with the full approval of the Pleasanton City Council are attempting to require senior citizens to pay 5% more money than all the other resident citizens that received water and sewer billing statements.

I have contacted State Attorney General kamala Harris office and asked that they weigh in with an opinion.


4 people like this
Posted by highdiver
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2015 at 6:09 pm

It's in way you interpret numbers I guess. And knowing where the numbers come from. Looking at your water bill, you see four items Pleasanton fixed meter charges, Pleasanton fixed sewer charges, Dublin San Ramon fixed sewer charges, and Zone 7 water charges.

The Senior and Disabled discounts are based on the Pleasanton charges only. So, that is probably less than $10 a month in most cases. Used to be a discount for DSRSD but that is gone. Reducing the discounts for Seniors from 20% to 15% would amount to a couple of dollars per household.

Looking at the Budgets and prior year results specifically the Enterprise funds for Water and Sewer it appears they are both solvent and Revenues exceed Expenditures by some $2 million.

A major program to send recycled water to parts of Pleasanton starts in August, supposedly saving 450 million gallons of potable water. Perhaps the money is needed for that. Also, the city and Zone 7 are giving rebates to those who convert their lawns into water efficient landscapes.

The notion that Enterprise funds need to be self sustaining within themselves needs to be looked into also. Sometimes, it makes more sense using the General Fund for some items.

For me, start with looking at the expenditures first then look at revenues. Don't just raise rates because its the most expedient way





1 person likes this
Posted by Zara
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2015 at 7:07 pm

I second Damon's question. BIG difference in wording there. So which is it: penalties for exceeding 20 units period (which is ridiculous; larger families would find it VERY hard to comply) or does the wording pertain to the senior discount requirement?


1 person likes this
Posted by Full Disclosure
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Jul 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm

highdiver

Please provide links to the data you cite.

I agree with you...look at expenditures first CAP-EX, OP-EX, and fixed costs.
Look for cost reductions.

Hope to see you at one of the City sponsored workshops!


7 people like this
Posted by Where's the Tax Cut (Offset)?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2015 at 9:19 pm

Folks, this is a TAX INCREASE in disguise.

We were, as a city, already paying the water costs. Since only 87% of the water costs were paid by water users, 13% was paid out of general tax revenues.

If the water rates are increased, then to avoid burdening the population more there should be offsetting tax cuts. Otherwise those tax revenues are going to be spent on something else besides water. What is it?

In the absence of OFFSETTING TAX CUTS, this is simply a tax hike of $60/year per household.

P.S. The sewer and service charge should pay for all the equipment and salaries. The per-unit water cost should pay for actual water. I find it hard to believe that the cost of water has actually increased.


Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2015 at 11:34 am

Local officials have warned the ruling from the Santa Ana-based appeals court may force cities and water districts to rely more on other tools, such as more advertising, water audits, rebate programs for low-water appliances, restrictive rules on lawn watering and fines for violators.

But legal experts and water officials also say water districts will still be able to use the tiered rates if they can demonstrate they are closely tied to the cost of providing water services.

Amid the most severe drought in California's 164-year history, Brown has ordered urban residents to cut water use by 25 percent statewide. One key tool that Brown had recommended was for local governments to set rate structures with higher "surcharges, fees and penalties" for people who use large amounts of water.

But that approach -- conserve or pay a much higher water bill -- was thrown into doubt by the 4th District Court of Appeal's conclusion that such charges may violate Proposition 218, a 1996 ballot measure that barred governments from charging more for a service than it costs to provide.

The court did not invalidate the use of rate tiers entirely. It said, however, that cities and water agencies can charge more only if they can document that it costs them more to provide the extra water.

The court ruling, because it is "published," sets statewide legal precedent that can be used in other court challenges to water district policies and at a minimum forces local water officials and lawyers to reconsider how they can legally enforce water conservation. As of now, there are two similar legal battles unfolding against the Sweetwater Authority, a San Diego area water district, and the city of Glendale's water district

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

An email explanation from the mayor:

"The action of the City Council last Tuesday night only authorized the staff to distribute a "Prop. 218" notice to the residents of Pleasanton and establish October 6, 2015 as the public hearing date. No rates can be increased until after that public hearing is held. Prop. 218 does not allow an increase in fees from those announced in the 218 notice after the notice has been distributed. That is why the decrease in the senior discount was included in the notice. We can raise it back to 20% at the public hearing, but we could not have lowered it to 15% if it remained at 20% in the notice".

Jerry Thorne


6 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm

It would be nice if the city of Pleasanton would define rate, surcharge, fee, and penalty in relation to water bills and when and how they are applied. This article throws these words around haphazardly and it has obviously led to reader confusion.
It would be nice to have, like Livermore instituted, a banking system, where if the ratepayer saves more than 25%, they will be able to use the saved water at a later date. Pleasanton system is more like a management by punishment. Either do this or else! Pretty poor when you have to start taking away senior citizen benefits. Livermore and Dublin/San Ramon water districts seem to be forward thinking. Pleasanton, not so much.
The best way to not get re-elected....Jerry...is to screw the senior citizens.
Taxpayer money should be used to fund special discounts like low income and senior citizen. This was community decision, the community should pay for these costs.


Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton was nice forty years ago
a resident of Castlewood
on Jul 23, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Nice to know our city is practicing age discrimination. If your a certain age you get a discount. Good job Pleasanton do blacks get a discount too What about the Jews


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 23, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that tiered rates are against the law are we going to get our money back that has been taken illegally from us all these years?


Like this comment
Posted by Henry Klein
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2015 at 7:49 am

Great question Jerry, let's all send emails to the city council and ask them this question?


Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Val Vista
on Jul 24, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I was at the City Council meeting where the Council members were told that they could raise the levels and discount amount on Oct. 6th, but not lower it. So, they picked low numbers for the senior discount. Go to the meetings if you want them increased. Only Karla Brown seemed to want to completely eliminate the discount. She was afraid that some rich seniors were having an unfair advantage.


4 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 24, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Charging more for this stinky, colored pee hard water in Pleasanton?
This is not drinking water! It is sewage water as it tastes and smells like it!


2 people like this
Posted by concerned rate citizen
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Aug 23, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Am I the only one that cannot fathom what my water rate is.

Water rates are supposedly standard & setup by the city. Does anyone have a link?
Why does the Pleasanton city / water website not show the rate information?

My zone 7 / Pleasanton water bill never shows my actual water rates / per unit on my water bill?
• Only the total charges are shown to keep rates & further rate increases in the dark.
• Water billing dept claims there is no room to show rates?
o All I ask is that my charged water rate(s) per unit be detailed & shown explicitly (not the laundry list of rates available for everyone including the city camel)


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 25, 2015 at 3:09 pm

The city is applying the $4/unit surcharge to the 30 units we are allowed plus the units we exceeded. This is likely to not hold up in court.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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