Certain water and sewer rates will rise next year for 2,000 South Laguna customers, but not as much as the South Coast Water District proposed.
The board of directors approved the rate hikes during a special meeting Monday at district headquarters, but not without opposition from two residents and one board member.
"We have to remember our obligation as a public agency, owned by the public, to keep [rates] down," board vice president Bob Moore said.
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The board voted 3 to 1 for the water and sewer rate increases, with president Wayne Rayfield and directors Richard Runge and Rick Erkeneff (who phoned in from Alaska) approving the rate increases. Moore dissented.
Director Dick Dietmeier was ill, district spokeswoman Linda Homscheid said.
"We have to reanalyze the budget, see who is doing what," Moore said. "I'm opposed to a 1-inch meter being so much more to use than a three-quarters-inch meter."
Meter size corresponds with the size of the water pipe used.
The 2013-14 annual water service charge will remain $284.62 for a three-quarter-inch meter and $512.31 for a one-inch meter, according to a district staff report. The rate will jump to $294.20 for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The district used $100,000 from reserves to lessen the amount of the annual water service charge increase.
Beginning Thursday, ratepayers in single-family homes will be charged 15 cents more per unit of water (748 gallons) they use — from $2.01 per unit to $2.16 per unit. The increase applies to the first five units, and the rate will rise to $2.25 per unit in 2014-15, the staff report said.
For customers who use six to 13 units, the per unit cost will increase 22 cents to $4.07 in 2013-14.
The rates reflect the cost to purchase water from the Municipal Water District of Orange County (a wholesale supplier), South Coast District General Manager Betty Burnett said.
South Coast imports 75% of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, and those costs are rising faster than the general inflation rate, according to a notice mailed to residents.
Customers who use six units or more are helping the district treat, store and deliver water, Homscheid said.
The monthly sewer usage charge will jump to $1.07 per unit of water from 97 cents. The new figure is less than what staff proposed at a public meeting Thursday ($1.18 per unit), when the board deadlocked 2 to 2, leading to Monday's special meeting.
The district used $250,000 from its reserves to help lessen the amount of the sewer usage increase, Homscheid said.
The rate will increase to $1.20 in 2014-15, she said.
In approving the measure, the board agreed to set rates for the next two years, instead of three years, as originally proposed.
Customers will see the new water and sewer usage charges reflected in their monthly bills starting in September, according to Homscheid.
South Laguna resident Penny Elia suggested using recycled water instead of raising rates, and recommended ways of reducing the district's budget.