Unfortunately, in the Districtâ€™s approach to communicating this, they choose to only cite the new rate ($3.29 / Unit) in the customerâ€™s Dec â€˜15 monthly bill. However, the District did not communicate the rate that was then being applied ($2.40 / Unit) or how large a percent increase (37.1%) was taking place. Thus, the change being driven by this huge increase was being masked from the general customer population. In fact, if a customer wanted to figure out what the current rate was, they would have had to dissect their bill and do the calculations to determine the percentage increase. Alternatively, a customer could have followed the link that was provided with the notice of the increase, and then tried to plow through the website to find the information that would let them know what the rate increase was and the justification for it.
Note that when the District communicated the new Zone 7 Unit rate on the Dec â€™15 billing statements, they also communicated there would be a 2.29% increase due to an annual Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA), but stated the new cost of water ($3.29 / Unit) only in absolute dollars, not percent (37.1%). So why did they choose to communicate the percentage increase for the COLA (2.29%) but not the Unit Cost of Water (37.1%)? Oh, and by the way, the lead-in to both those increases was that the Drought Rates were being lowered from Stage 2 to Stage 1. Great deal, right?
Now the Zone 7 Water District states that the huge 37.1% increase is needed since funds had dropped from $36.4M in FY13-14 to $14.4M in FY14-15 due to the drought. Furthermore, that $0.57 of the $0.89 / Unit increase is temporary in 2016 to prop up the financial stability of the District. However, even if the District chooses to let the $0.57 / Unit portion of the increase lapse at the end of 2016, that still leaves a 13.3% increase. Furthermore, on top of that, they have also approved 10% increases in Treated Water Service Rates year-over-year for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Is the general customer population aware of those sizable increases? Not likely, nor will they ever be given the communication tactics used by the Zone 7 Water District.
The Zone 7 Water District claims full transparency because they hold meetings offering public comment. However, it is clear that the public wonâ€™t comment when the information is presented in an opaque fashion. Anything less than full and CLEAR disclosure is intended to suppress information and the publicâ€™s reaction to situations, such as this egregious 37.1% increase. Let alone 10% increases year-over-year on top of that.