Council expected to OK water rate hike

CITY HALL — A split City Council tonight is poised to enact an unpopular water rate increase that Glendale Water & Power officials say is needed to keep them out of the red.

The City Council is expected to narrowly approve a proposed 3.8% water rate increase as the utility struggles to maintain its financial stability amid rising imported water costs and dropping revenues.

The vote comes after more than four months of discussion on the proposed hike, which would translate into an additional $4.66 on each bill for the average customer. Above-average users and larger accounts would see higher increases.

If approved, the increase will take effect in December.

Councilmen Frank Quintero and John Drayman are expected to vote against the proposal, which they say seems to penalize residents for adhering to mandatory water conservation measures, which in turn hit a multimillion-dollar blow to the utility's bottom line.

But the other three on the dais have said they would likely support the increase, citing lack of other available options to balance the utility's financial shortfall.

Along with significant budget cuts, critical capital projects — including maintenance of an aging pipe network — have been postponed, officials said

"I just don't see any alternative to what we are doing," Mayor Ara Najarian said at a hearing last month on the proposed increase.

At the same meeting, several dozen residents spoke out against the hike, which they said would come at a time when they were already struggling to pay their bills.

Many residents seized on the annual $4-million transfer of the utility's water revenues to the General Fund, which pays for public services such as police and libraries.

Last week, several residents made a last-ditch plea to sway the City Council against approving the rate hike.

Glendale resident Bob Getts urged the City Council to vote against the increase and instead balance the utility's budget by reducing the General Fund transfer.

"It is time for City Council to stop contributing to [Glendale Water & Power's] financial problems and soaking ratepayers with repeated utility hikes to stem the fiscal bleeding," he said.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World