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Encinitas water rate hike approved

A double rate hike is on tap in the San Dieguito Water District.

The Encinitas City Council, in its role as the district board, voted unanimously on Jan. 20 to increase water rates and meter charges. Starting Feb. 1, the average resident’s bill will rise 5.9 percent and up to an additional 5.9 percent in 2017.

This increase came about in response to low water levels at Lake Hodges in Escondido, forcing the district to stock up on costly imported water.

Other factors in the hike include: The district having to fund part of the new Carlsbad desalination plant; paying down pension costs; and district revenues falling because residents have cut water use in response to state-mandated drought restrictions.

Surrounding water districts have cited similar reasons for upping their rates in recent months.

The average resident’s monthly bill beginning in February will increase from $65.71 to $69.61, or 5.9 percent. Commercial bills will jump 19.6 percent on average and agricultural rates will soar 26 percent.

If the district’s finances improve, the board has the option of increasing rates less than 5.9 percent in 2017.

Along with water rates going up, the board approved an increase in fixed, bi-monthly meter charges. Those served by 5/8- or 3/4-inch meters will see their bills go from $35.05 to $37.39 beginning next month. In 2017, that will rise to $39.82.

Besides questions over rate calculations, board members at the meeting did not comment on the matter. In November, the board supported upping the rates, triggering a requirement to notify district households of a final vote.

The district mailed 13,854 customer notices about the proposed rate increase. It received nine letters objecting to the plan.

At the Jan. 20 meeting, two residents voiced opposition.

Bob Bonde said that the district’s water and meter rates don’t apply equally to all residential property owners, violating California’s Proposition 218 requirements.

General Manager Bill O’Donnell said the rate tiers are in line with industry standards and that Bonde’s suggestions would make the district’s rates “less defensible.”

The San Dieguito Water District covers the western half of the city, with the Olivenhain Municipal Water District serving the rest.


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