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CAMARILLO : School District Asks for Cut in Water Bill

The Pleasant Valley Elementary School District wants Camarillo city officials to charge less for water, because the district is facing skyrocketing water bills despite a dramatic cut in water use.

In a letter to the city last month, the district asked city officials to establish a new rate structure for the schools. The issue will be considered by the City Council, but no date has been set.

Problems arose for the district in April, when the city switched to a new water billing system. Instead of billing users on a flat-rate basis, the city changed to a tiered system that charges customers according to water meter size and penalizes them for exceeding each level of the tier.

The switch was devastating for the district. Its water costs jumped 41% over the past two years, although its use of city water declined 35% during the same time. Its charges from November, 1990, through October, 1991, totaled $88,810.

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“We feel we need some relief,” said Howard Hamilton, the district’s associate superintendent. He said the district’s 13 schools have done everything they can do to cut water use.

“We had already reduced 17% before the drought was in full swing,” he said. Toilets have been refitted to conserve water. The fields at the schools are watered only twice a week for 15 minutes, and they have begun to deteriorate, he said.

“Any money that goes out to pay water bills doesn’t go to the kids,” Hamilton said. To balance its budget for the 1991-92 school year, the financially strapped district made $1.8 million in cuts.

The city has tried to help the district by doing a water-use audit and suggesting conservation methods, said John Elwell, the city’s director of community services. One suggestion has been to increase the size of the district’s water meters to one more compatible with larger users, which would cause the district to be billed at a more favorable rate.

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But district officials say that would be too costly at the rate of $3,000 per meter for the half a dozen meters that would be changed.


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