San Clemente Raises Water Rates Most for Big Users

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Newly restructured water and sewer rates adopted recently will increase costs 10% to 15% overall and carry stiffer penalties for late payers.

The largest water consumers face the biggest increases, officials said.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 last week to approve the new rates, which were based on a recent city review and analysis of its water billing system, officials said. Councilman Thomas Lorch cast the dissenting vote.

The new rates are made up of a fixed service charge plus an additional charge that is based on the amount used. The more water used, the more it costs, according to the new formula.

Councilman Joseph Anderson said the new rates are fair because they are based more on usage, rather than flat rates. He described the new formula as "not a rate increase as much as a redistribution of costs."

"The object is to make the system as fair as possible, that's what we are trying to accomplish," Anderson said. "If you look at the total revenue, for an equal amount of water it will cost about 3% more. But there will be significant variations to individual consumers depending on how much water they use."

Lorch said he voted against the increase because he didn't understand the reason for the changes.

"The explanation of what is driving the new costs was glossed over," Lorch said. "It was not explained whether it was new administrative costs or what."

Lorch also objected to new penalty provisions in the agreement. Customers who are 25 days late with their payment will be subject to an added 10% increase in their bills and those who are 35 days late could have their water shut off, he said.

"I think that's unfair considering we are switching from a two-month billing period," Lorch said.

The new system also includes a special low rate for low-income families who earn less than $15,700 per year.

The new rates are scheduled to become effective July 1.

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