Redwood City water and sewer customers will see rates rise 9 percent over the next three years in large part to accommodate wholesale costs and address infrastructure repair and replacement.
The City Council voted unanimously on both increases at Monday night’s meeting, telling the audience it understands residents’ frustration at paying more but that holding rates steady now will only create a more substantial spike down the road. Several councilmembers said they prefer a slow and steady rise to create predictability and allow for better budgeting rather than a jarring double-digit jump later. The council also added that the adopted rates are nowhere near the amount needed to cover the cost of fixing the aging infrastructure, contributing to a wastewater treatment plant and swallowing the 49.8 percent jump in wholesale water prices by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission the last two years. Another 45 percent increase is projected for over the next five years, too.
“Had we wanted to keep up with everything that needs to be done, rates would be higher,” said Councilman John Seybert.
The city’s estimated share of the South Bayside System Authority’s replacement and repair costs is $200 million. The city’s own sewer infrastructure is estimated to cost more than $100 million over the next decade for maintenance and replacement.
However, the explanations didn’t appease speakers like Rosann Mitchell who said even the lesser percentage was a lot in the current economy.
“I’m concerned about the rate increase because to me they’re already high compared to my salary,” she said.
The average residential customer with 1,200 cubic feet of monthly usage will see his or her bi-monthly water utility bill increase by $11.28 from $125.38 to $136.66 beginning Aug. 1. On the same date, the typical sewer utility bill will increase by $10.42 from $115.76 to $126.18.
Other speakers at the meeting addressed the need to improve water losses due to landscaping and questioned why the sewer and water enterprise funds need to be replenished.
Councilwoman Rosanne Foust explained that the funds are self-sustaining, meaning they are completely separate from the general fund and generate their own money through rates for work the city requires.
The city received about 80 protests letters out of 23,000 customers, said Assistant Public Works Director Terence Kyaw. Fifty percent were needed to prevent the increase.
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