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City Council to vote on water rate hikes

POSTED December 8, 2017 8:49 p.m.

The Turlock City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed water rate increase that would see customers’ bills almost double over the next five years.

The Council voted on Sept. 26 to proceed with property owner notification requirements for the consideration of increasing water rates in an effort to fund needed treatment on the City’s current groundwater wells, and help fund a new surface water treatment plant.

On-again, off-again talk of building a surface water plant for Turlock and neighboring communities dates back three decades. With the Turlock Irrigation District reaching an agreement on raw water costs with the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, made up of the Cities of Turlock and Ceres, plans are in the works to deliver Tuolumne River water to homes in Ceres and Turlock by 2022.

To make the plan a reality, however, both cities will need to raise water rates to fund the $278 million project — with Turlock’s share approximately $172 million.

“No one wants to raise rates,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth. “But the importance of establishing a safe, secure and diversified water delivery system means we need to upgrade our system to ensure a more sustainable water supply for our community today and in the future.”

Under the proposal, the average single-family water bill is expected to go from $43 a month in 2018 to $78 a month in 2022. The Council adopted a five-year rate increase schedule in 2014 to fund a groundwater only system. If adopted, the new water rate schedule would supersede the last two years of the previous rate increases and be effective starting March 2018, with annual increases following in January of each year.

The City of Turlock held an informational meeting in October about the proposed rate increases. During that meeting, a number of questions were asked regarding how the water rates are calculated, specifically, how the majority of the water rates (70 percent) are “fixed” charges with only 30 percent based on how much water a customer actually uses.

Tom Pavletic of Municipal Financial Services explained that Turlock’s decision to structure the water rates with a majority on fixed costs has allowed the City’s water operations to remain stable during tough economic times and drastic decreases in water usage.

Under Prop. 218, if the City receives written protests by 50 percent of the affected parcels, plus one (approximately 9,500 parcels) the rate increases cannot be implemented.

To be counted, the protest has to be made in writing and received by the City before 6 p.m. Dec. 12. Emailed requests cannot be accepted. Protests can be mailed or taken in person to: City of Turlock, 156 S. Broadway, Turlock, CA 95380.

For more information about the water rates or protest process, call Municipal Services at 668-5590.

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