Idyllwild Water District customers will begin paying new rates in July following the Board of Directors’ unanimous approval of a 12-percent increase for both water and sewer at its May 22 meeting.

For the average residential user, the new water rate will be $27.07, a $2.90 increase from the current level of $24.17. The new rates will be applied to all customer categories — base rates as well as the tiered usage rates.

The base rate increase will be effective on the July bill, but the usage increased rate will appear on the August bill, applied to July water use.

Hosny Shouman, IWD chief finance officer, in explaining the reasons for two 6-percent increases, said operating expenses have been growing faster than water sales revenue for several years.

Through April, the district’s water operating expenses exceeded water revenue by nearly $200,000. Shouman said the fiscal 2013-14 proposed budget would end in a net deficit approaching $60,000, even after property tax revenue.

With the double rate increase, Shouman projected 2013-14 would end with a meager $2,000 net income.

Just two years ago, fiscal year 2011-12, the operating deficit (expenses and water use) was about $225,000. But property taxes and other revenue totaled $278,000, resulting in a net income of $53,000.

For the past year, the directors have held periodic committee meetings with staff to discuss IWD’s financial condition and the need to make changes in personnel expenses. As a result, IWD has reduced payroll and other employee benefits by nearly $60,000 annually, according to Shouman.

In addition, the district has found ways to reduce electric, fuel, propane and other expenses nearly $40,000, for a total annual savings of about $100,000 of its combined $1.6 million water and sewer budget, Shouman said.

Four people attended the meeting and only one spoke. “I don’t like it, but I understand why you need it,” Richard Nash said.

The district is considering using surveys to assess customer interest in the proposed water recycling facility and willingness to pay some of its costs, said IWD President Allan Morphett.

The proposed 2013-14 budget will be on the June agenda, according to General Manager Terry Lyons.

In water business, IWD customers used about 6.9 million gallons during April, a 25-percent increase from April 2012. During the first four months of 2013, consumption is nearly 6.2 million gallons more than during the same period a year ago.

With water consumption growing and Foster Lake’s level at barely half – full is the normal for this time of year – Lyons repeated his earlier admonition that a Stage 2 Water Conservation might need to be invoked later this summer.

Besides the lake’s actual water level, Lyons also will look at the ground water level of wells near the lake, he said.