Although the Fern Valley Water District directors enacted several resolutions during last Friday’s meeting, most of their time was devoted to a report from their Rate and Revenue Subcommittee and a customer’s request to grant relief from their water bill.
Board President and Chair of the subcommittee Robert Krieger reported that the draft report, which Webb and Associates has prepared, will need further changes. In discussions with FVWD’s legal counsel regarding the recent state appellate court decision sustaining a superior court’s decision that San Juan Capistrano did not sufficiently justify its tiered water rates pursuant to Proposition 218, Krieger wanted to address this policy in more detail.
The subcommittee reviewed the production costs from its two water sources — surface and groundwater. Because of the regular variability in use, “we concluded there is not sufficient information to make a distinction between the two sources,” Krieger said.
Another option, which the subcommittee reviewed, was setting rates at a level to cover all of the production and distribution costs. “That might raise the per-cubic-foot rate from $4.35 to $6.50 or $7 with only one tier,” he said.
A third option, which the subcommittee plans to present to the board, would raise the bimonthly service charge from $32.70 to about $40 and have only one rate tier, according to Krieger. “It might be less,” he added.
This would benefit the big users and have the greatest effect on the customers who do not use much water, and does not encourage conservation, he said, describing this option.
A fourth option, which also will be presented to the board, would raise the service charge some, but leave the existing tiers unchanged.
Regarding the process, Krieger is still discussing which options might need or require a Prop 218 hearing or even require a voter of the district.
While the district is expecting its property tax revenue to increase with the economic recovery, Krieger stressed that these funds are usually the source of funding for the FVWD’s capital improvements and are not always sufficient to cover operational costs.
The other major topic was reviewing a request to grant more relief from a winter water bill. The nearly $1,800 bill was caused when a valve was inadvertently left open when the resident owner left the Hill. This was not the first occurrence, according to General Manager Steve Erler.
He had recommended the board forgive $550. Krieger told the customer he district would install a new water valve immediately following payment of the balance due.
However, the customer asked for 75 percent reduction, more than $1,200. After discussion, the board unanimously approved its original offer with no change.
In water business, Erler reported that slightly more surface water had been available in May. Water from well production was 18 percent in May, compared to nearly three-quarters of water in April 2015 and May 2014. Tahquitz Creek was flowing at 75 gallons-per-minute, almost 50 percent more than a year ago.
He also mentioned that the district had recently sold three new water meters: two installed recently and the third next month.