Cotati water rates on the rise
Council unanimously approves increase, tiered structure, but sewer rates will remain the same
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By Dave Williams  July 5, 2013 12:00 am

The Cotati City Council unanimously approved an increase in water rates at a special meeting on Monday, July 1.

The change in rates for the average residential customer will be an increase of 2.1 percent, which will result in an average increase of $2 per month during the summer when usage is at its highest and $1.30 per month during the winter. 

The city will also have a tiered rate structure where customers pay a higher rate for water at higher levels of use. The rate structure, according to the city staff report, will help keep water charges moderate at lower levels of use and encourages conservation at higher levels of use. 

Also, multi-family and non-residential customers will pay the average rate paid by the residential class. All customers will continue to pay a fixed meter charge with a billing every two months.

According to a staff report, Cotati has not changed water rates in more than six years. And the city’s independent rate consultant recently completed a water and sewer rate study and recommended Cotati adjust the water rates to meet the rising cost of providing water service and supporting the necessary infrastructure projects. However, there is no change to the sewer rates.

State law mandates water and sewer systems must be self supporting, meaning the funding comes solely from the rates, and this revenue may not be used for any other city services. The city staff report states no local, state or federal taxes offset the costs.

Since 2007, the last time Cotati raised water rates, the cost of wholesale water from the Russian River has increased by 53 percent, according to City Engineer and Director of Public Works Damien O’Bid. And Cotati relies on the Russian River for two-thirds of its water supply. The cost, O’Bid said is “projected to increase by 6 percent each year.”

 “After six years of managing these increases for our customers, we need to plan for future rate changes so they don’t erode our ability to provide services to our customers and maintain our system,” O’Bid wrote in a city staff report. “There are funding requirements to support projects that will improve our system reliability and resiliency and to replace aging infrastructure.”

The city’s independent rate consultant recently completed a water and sewer rate study and found the city to be in compliance with the provisions of Proposition 218, which California voters approved in 1996. The proposition amended the California constitution and created additional procedural and substantive requirements for property related fees, among other provisions. Some of the key provisions of Prop. 218 are: a procedure for public hearing on the proposed rate changes following a 45-day notice period and tabulation of a majority of protest ballots;  fees shall only be used for the service provided; fees cannot exceed the cost of service; and fees cannot exceed the proportional cost of the service.

The bi-monthly water charges for those with three-quarter-inch meters currently is $28.50 but will rise to $30.21 when the new rates kick in. Those with one-inch meters currently pay $47.59, but the cost jumps to $50.45. 

The residential usage charge per 1,000 gallons currently is $2.64. Under the tiered structure, residents who use up to 10,000 gallons will pay $2.74 when the new rates kick in, while those who use up to 20,000 gallons will be charged $2.90 per gallon used. Residencies using more than 20,000 will pay $3.65 per gallon used. Non-residential will pay $2.90 under the new structure.

Complete charts of water rates and changes can be found on the city’s website at http://www.ci.cotati.ca.us. Click on “Councils and Commissions,” then click on “Agendas, Minutes and Podcasts” and then click on the meeting packet for July 1, 2013 meeting.

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