Crescenta Valley Water District rates slated to rise

Crescenta Valley Water District officials said this week that they expect a proposed 6.9% rate increase to anger customers, given two other significant increases last year.

Though the proposal to again ratchet up water rates has been expected for months, district board member Kerry Erickson said his colleagues expect a negative reaction.

"They're not going to be happy," he said. "We've already had a number of raises."

Last week, the board discussed the proposal to raise rates, but tabled making a decision until it could review more financial documents.

On Tuesday, the board is expected to choose a maximum rate increase, a proposal for which will then be mailed to customers and discussed at a future public meeting before a final vote is taken.

The rate increase is planned to take effect in July.

Sewer rates were increased by 8.2% in October and customers saw an 8.2% water rate hike in January, followed by a 3.1% boost in July. Sewer rates are slated to jump again by 8.4% next July.

While higher wastewater treatment costs charged by the Los Angeles Sanitation Department have driven the sewer rate changes, a push to pay for improvements to aging infrastructure with cash on hand, rather than incur debt, has prompted the water rate hikes.

The district plans to fix a water main, rehabilitate two groundwater wells, replace a 20-year-old data system, install a chlorination system and undertake other capital improvements in 2013 and 2014, according to a district report.

"The water rate increase places the water district on a sustainable path of replacing and maintaining the infrastructure as it ages," board Vice-President James Bodnar said. "I find raising water rates very difficult, but it's also necessary to maintain service and reliability to our customers."

But board member Judy Tejeda said the 6.9% proposed rate is a "work in progress" and could come down as discussions continue.

Bodnar said the water agency plans to use a portion of groundwater contamination settlements from gasoline companies to curb the need to raise rates even more.

The district has so far won $12.5 million from three companies, including Exxon Mobil, and is working to settle with four others before a federal trial slated for September.

The district has used its reserves in the past to reduce water and sewer rate bumps, but officials have said that tactic can only go so far.

Tejeda said she wants to put a microscope to the utility's expenditures before raising rates.

"If there's anything that looks like frosting on a cake, we don't want it," Tejeda said.

The April 16 board meeting is set for 7 p.m. at 2700 Foothill Blvd.


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