San Carlos officials may drop sewer rates 14 percent for multi-family residences after hearing from owners that the three-year rate structure adopted across the board last year was unfair to complexes with fewer occupants and less usage than single-family homes.
Currently, San Carlos residential customers play a flat annual sewer charge per unit regardless of whether it is a single-family home, duplex, condo, apartment or other type of dwelling. In the proposal coming before the City Council Monday night, multi-family unit customers would pay 86 percent of the single-family rate. Roughly 2,150 multi-family units would quality which would mean a $290,000 drop in 2014-2015 revenues and a $320,000 revenue decrease in 2015-2016.
Public Works Director Jay Walter told the council in a staff report that the city’s sewer enterprise fund could “easily handle” this 2 percent reduction in the next two fiscal years based on projected revenue. Longer term impacts would also be negligible, according to Walker, because the city can set future rates to mean a very small increase in other customer rates to make up the difference and maintain the fund.
In May 2013, the council voted 4-1 with Councilman Matt Grocott opposed, to increase both sewer and water rates over three years to cover long-deferred maintenance and a new treatment plant. That plan began with a 25 percent increase followed by 20 percent to 10 percent to let work start near immediately on system improvements. For residential customers, this meant their monthly sewer charges of $53.10 jumped last year to $67.29 followed by $80.75 this upcoming July 1 and $88.82 the following.
At the public hearing for those increases, apartment owners requested usage-based billing and the council agreed to look at the matter which is what led to Monday’s agenda item.
The council has three options before it including the recommended alternative of charging a fixed 86 percent of the single-family rate. A major advantage of this option is the city not needing to go through the rate increase process of protests and public hearing and can instead simply implement the change, according to Walter.
The other alternatives are making no change and keeping the flat rate uniform for all accounts or moving to a residential rate structure that includes a variable rate component based on volume. This last alternative would require each customer’s bill to be reset every fiscal year based on winter water use from the previous January through April. Doing so would help low-use customers but increase sewer bills for customers with high winter water use like larger families.
If the City Council opts for the recommended decrease, a multi-family unit’s current $986.95 yearly rate will drop to $833.30 in fiscal year 2014-2015 and the upcoming 2015-2016 rate of $1,065.85 would be $916.63.
Opting for the variable rate component would mean a fixed charge of $629.82 for all units with a $4.04 charge per hundred cubic feet.
The city’s sewer costs include a mandated $64 million contribution to the new South Bayside System Authority’s $420 million wastewater treatment plant. The city also has approximately $10 million worth of sewer system capacity improvements necessary over the next five years to prevent overflows and comply with the legal settlement reached with San Francisco Baykeepers.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, June 23 in City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102