At last week’s meeting for the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District, the directors approved the issuance of Proposition 218 notices for all ratepayers and scheduled a public hearing on Dec. 20 for the proposed new rate structures.

While these actions apply to customers in the district’s Hemet, San Jacinto and Garner Valley areas, the proposed new Garner Valley rate structure is different from the recommendation for the valley neighborhoods.

LHMWD hired Raftelis, a water consulting firm, to conduct a water-rate study. Its objectives were to develop for each service-area financial plan to meet operation and maintenance costs, and ensure sufficient funding for capital replacement and refurbishment needs. Also, the plans were to develop sound and sufficient reserve-fund targets.

The unique issue, which concerns many Garner Valley residents, is the $1.7 million repayment of past expenses. The study report includes a repayment schedule over 20 years with interest set at the district’s LAIF rate.

For Garner Valley, the proposal recommends a decrease in the bimonthly meter charge for meters of 1 inch or less. If approved, properties with these meters will be billed $22.58 for 5/8- and 3/4-inch meters and $31.66 for 1-inch meters compared to the current fee of $37.26.

For larger meters, the $37.26 fee will be higher. The charge for 1 1/2-inch meters will be $54.13 and 4-inch meters will face a $293.29 bimonthly cost.

However, Raftelis recommended that the five water tiers be reduced to one for Garner Valley customers. During droughts, LHMWD continues to pump from its wells at no additional costs as compared to the valley customers.

Monthly charges do increase and are the first increases since 2010. The study report indicated that the current rates “generate approximately $233,000 and barely fund the $265,000 annual operation costs …”

The cost per 748 gallons, hundred cubic feet, will increase from $2.68 to $4.33 in 2022.

If approved after the December public hearing, the new rates for all customers will be effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Notices for the December hearing will be mailed the first week of November, according LHMWD General Manager Mike Gow.