Las Virgenes Water Users Face Rate Hike

Starting in July, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District customers will pay about 15% more a month for service to help erase the agency's projected $4.5-million budget shortfall for fiscal 1996-97.

The increase--which will cost the average customer about $9.64 more a month--will raise an additional $3.6 million a year, the district says. It would be the sixth increase in as many years.

Glen Peterson, a member of the board of directors who was the dissenter in the board's 3-1 vote Tuesday, wanted a 10% increase cap. He argued that the district's fiscal planners have been overly gloomy in their forecasts and that 10% would be sufficient. Peterson said that, among other things, he expects connection-fee revenues to increase significantly as construction begins on several large-scale developments in the area.

Agency officials say the shortfall was caused by a sharp decline in the number of new hookups over the past few years. But critics, who include Ernie Dynda, president of the United Organizations of Taxpayers Inc., say the district should have foreseen the drop-off. Critics further charge that the district has wasted money.

For its part, the district says it would have been impossible to forecast the decline in hookup revenues.

The district has proposed other measures to close the budget gap, including eliminating 12 vacant positions, deferring some capital expenses and streamlining staff functions and purchasing procedures.

The board of directors will vote on those measures in June as part of the district's 1996-97 budget.

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