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Crescenta Valley Water District plans to raise bills an average of $6

Crescenta Valley Water District customers can expect a $6 average increase to their monthly bills.

The board of directors voted in favor of rate and service increases Tuesday as part of the district’s annual budget.

Directors voted 4-1 to pass a resolution that would implement the increases. Board member Judy Tejada dissented.

The district provides water and sewage services to unincorporated La Crescenta, Verdugo City and Montrose, as well as a portion of incorporated La Cañada Flintridge. The utility serves a population of about 34,000.

Starting July 1, water-quantity charges will jump 4.6%, and monthly service will go up 16.7%. It is expected the monthly bills for the heaviest water users will increase by about $8.85, around $5.86 for the “typical” user, and the lowest user will see a $4 increase.

The utility has generally increased water rates over the past five years, with the highest increase in monthly service charges, 7.5%, implemented just last year.

Thomas Love, general manager for the utility, recommended the board adopt the increase.

“As our reserves continue to get lower, I think the board understands that our financial stability is very important while maintaining our water quality and water-supply reliability,” Love said Friday.

District officials determined in a water-rate study that the rate hike was necessary, due in large part to the drop in the utility’s year-over-year revenue, Love said.

In a report, the utility said it does not expect revenues to return to pre-drought levels, as customers have adapted to drought restrictions through usage habits, drought-tolerant landscapes and water-efficient fixtures.

Officials also point to the growing annual cost of water — which is purchased to make up for declining groundwater production — maintenance of aging infrastructure and the increased cost of employee healthcare benefits.

Next fiscal year’s water revenue is projected at $12 million from water sales and meter charges, as well as an additional $1.4 million from other projected sources of revenue, according to a Water District budget report.

Water operational expense projection is at $9.2 million, and $3.2 million will go toward capital improvement projects for the next fiscal year. The total cost for compensation and benefits is projected at about $3 million.

Shortly before the final vote Tuesday, Tejeda proposed a change to the budget in lieu of the rate hike, asking the board to consider using reserves. Although board member Kerry Erickson supported the idea, the proposal was voted down 3-2.

“We had lots of forewarning about what was coming up because of the Prop. 218 mailer telling residents that we could raise the rates up to 7.2%,” Tejeda said Friday.

“I said right from the get-go that I would not vote for any rate that was higher than 5.9% … the reason I got on the board many years ago was because I felt that the water board then was raising the rates unnecessarily."

Tejada said she understands the utility’s fiscal situation and has asked Love to not fill a recently vacated staff position as a way to cut costs and stave off any future rate hikes.

Love said they are also working to keep empty another three vacant staff positions.

Sewer rates were not part of the vote. Rates for both sewage and water will be considered by the board again in one year.

jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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