Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

County Sups Approve Malibu Water Rate Hike
•  Limited Protest Attributed to Mechanics of Objection Process

BY BILL KOENEKER

To no one’s surprise, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, acting as the governing body of the water district, voted this week to approve the proposed water rate hikes recommended for Los Angeles County Waterworks District 29, which includes Malibu and Topanga.
The supervisors were told there were 169 protest letters from the 7700 ratepayers, who will be impacted by the fee increases.
Malibu resident Allison Ray, who attended the hearing, said, “I am equally disappointed in the home owners who were aware of the potential increase and how to oppose it, but did not write a letter of protest.”
Ray said she told the supervisors there was not fair notice about how the rate hike could be prevented and she was disappointed that they did not care that “insufficient notice was provided to the homeowners.”
Malibu resident Joan Lavine also attended to register her protest, “I complained the notice itself was flawed. It provided no proposal, budget or what specifically they were going to spend the money on.”
At the public hearing, the supervisors were expected to consider all protests against the proposed fee. Protesters needed a 51 percent majority to defeat the rate increase.
If written protests against the fee are presented by a majority of owners of parcels receiving service, the waterworks district will not impose the fee, according to the ratepayer letter.
Some customers have expressed frustration with how the county measures citizen approval or disapproval.
“They make it as difficult as possible because everyone has to write a letter protesting the increase to make a 51 percent majority against the fee, not for it,” said one irate ratepayer.
Written protests must have been submitted to the board by a majority of owners of parcels.
The proposed rate plan calls for a 5.4 percent annual increase for the first two years and 5.2 percent annually for the succeeding three years, according to the notice sent to customers.
Revenues generated from the rate increase, according to district officials, will be used to close a gap between revenues and expenditures, build a 90-day cash reserve, fund annual infrastructure projects, and offset a portion of asset depreciation.
Ratepayers are being told the proposed rate increases will result in an average annual revenue increase of $796,000 for operations and maintenance and $123,000 for capital infrastructure activities, for a total increase of $4.6 million over five years, according to the district.
“During the first year, the average single-family home using 73 hundred cubic feet bi-monthly will experience an approximately $21 increase on their bi-monthly water bill. Similar increases would occur each year thereafter,” the notice informs ratepayers.
District officials indicate the average bi-monthly bill would increase from $398.17 in 2012 to $514.99 by 2017.

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