The move to revamp the city's collection rates for water services gained momentum Tuesday night when the Turlock City Council approved by a narrow margin to hire a consulting firm to conduct a water rate study.
By a 3 to 2 vote the Council elected to hire Municipal Financial Services to perform the study at a cost not to exceed $31, 680. Council member Amy Bublak and Vice Mayor Bill Dehart both cast no votes for the study.
Turlock's Municipal Services Department requested the new water rate survey in an effort to help close a projected shortfall of $780,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The shortfall comes from the state mandated switch to meter-based billing, which has caused a dramatic decrease in revenues.
The use of meter-based billing is supposed to reduce water consumption because consumers are more aware of their water usage. While water use is down by 5 to 6 percent in the city, revenue has fallen by a disproportionate rate of 12 to 15 percent, according to Municipal Services data.
Water customers are given a minimum water allotment of approximately 20,600 gallons for the minimum charge. Currently, Turlock residents pay $25.54 for 22,000 gallons per month, plus additional charges for more usage. Only Newman and Oakdale pay less for water.
The last water rate increases for Turlock come in 2008. A water rate survey in 2004 led to an implementation of five rate increases between 2004 and 2008.
That water rate study was good for five years and in 2009 the city approved another study. The 2009 study predicted that the meter-based billing would drop revenues to an inadequate level for covering long-term expenses and future water use projects and recommended rate increases.
The completed study will return to the City Council for consideration.
Also on Tuesday the City Council:
• Changed the meeting time for the Turlock City Arts Commission from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.
• Appropriated $4,500 to cover the cost of hiring an instructor for the youth self-defense classes.
• Approved a loan of $34,000 to the Stanislaus County Affordable Housing Corporation for the rehabilitation costs related to the four-plex located at 1061 Alpha Road.
• Approved the fiscal year 2013-14 Annual Action Plan for the Community Development Block Grant Program.
• Determined that the emergency shelter bed cap of 200 did not need to be increased because there was no public demand for it.