Redwood City land owners could soon see their sewer service charges moved to their biannual property tax bill, a move some residents say is an unnecessary complication of the city’s current system.

“Financially for me I’m in position that it’s not going to affect me but there’s a lot of older people living here who are not even aware of it and it would be much easier for them to continue paying their bill every month like they have,” Carolyn Shores, a Redwood City homeowner living in the Mt. Carmel area, said.

On Monday, the City Council will take up the issue of whether to shift the city’s current sewage service billing model, which charges users every two months, to a biannual model that would pair sewer charges with the property tax cycle.

Doing so would make the county responsible for billing, a service that would cost the city roughly $19,300 annually.

The change would only apply to 13,583 parcels with single-family units on them, all facing fixed sewer rates of $89.28 a month starting July 1. Transitioning multidwelling properties and commercial lots to the model will likely take up to two more years because charges are based on use instead of a fixed rate, said Terence Kyaw, director of the Public Works Service Department.

Kyaw said the change is part of long-term plans to improve the Silicon Valley Clean Water facility and the city’s sewage infrastructure, both more than 50 years old. As the largest member of the sewage treatment plant joint powers authority, Redwood City will be responsible for covering roughly half of the $550 million improvements.

Shifting to the new model would reflect a steady revenue stream of about $14.5 million a year, improving the city’s chances of receiving bonds with lower interest rates and ultimately saving residents money, Kyaw said.

“The bigger picture we’re trying to achieve is minimizing future rate increases,” he said.

He noted the change from a city run billing cycle would also free up staff time, aligning with the city’s goal to “reimagine service delivery” after pandemic-induced financial strain. Because sewer services are still processed with water and garbage services at this point, Kyaw said it’s unclear how much saving in staff time the city will see with the shift.

Jerry Rexroth, a Redwood City resident of 40 years and owner of three properties in the city, said he strongly opposes the change. Every six months he pays the property taxes for his properties and his tenants are responsible for covering their own utilities including sewage service charges.

The shift would put Rexroth in charge of collecting sewage fees from his tenants, potentially causing him to either collect between $500 and $600 of additional funds every six months or front the money himself.

“It seems to be more complicated than it should be,” he said. “It just opens up the door to many problems.”

The current billing system also allows residents to budget for their charges, Rexroth and Shores said. While property taxes have remained fairly predictable and therefore easy to plan for, sewage rates are based on usage and fluctuate.

Shores said the change could also weigh heavy on seniors, many living on fixed incomes. It could also be a strain on those who will have to budget for the unknown final charge.

Shores, an owner of two residential properties in the city, also shared concern for residents who still may not be aware of the change by the time the next property tax billing cycle arrives. If the measure receives council approval, the billing change will take effect June 30 with charges from the next six months being posted in December.

“There’s going to be a lot of surprised homeowners,” Shores said. “I think you’re going to have a lot of unhappy people.”

Shores and Rexroth said they were only made aware of the proposed change after receiving an information mailer from the city a week ago. They raised concerns many less attentive residents may have missed the notice and suggested the city was trying to sneak the change past the public’s attention.

Kyaw said the city did it’s best to inform the public of the change. In addition to the mailers, the city posted notices in the Daily Journal, on social media platforms and in the “The Pilot,” a Redwood Shores neighborhood newsletter.

Staff also met with the public through four homeowner and neighborhood association meetings and two virtual community outreach events, Kyaw said. Admittedly, turnout was low with up to 12 participants, he said, noting most participants shared support for the billing switch.

To date, about 20 community protests have been submitted. To stop the city from implementing the changes without council intervention, more than 6,790 property owners who would be affected by the change would have to submit protests.

Kyaw said the council could also object to the measure completely or direct him to make changes, a scenario in which the residents said they have little faith.

Recognizing community concerns, Kyaw said he is hopeful residents will quickly adapt to the new model which is used in 10 other Peninsula cities. He noted qualifying residents will also still have access to the city’s Water and Sewer Rate Assistance Program.

The City Council will meet remotely via Zoom at 6 p.m. Monday, June 14, and will be streamed live at www.redwoodcity.org and on Comcast Channel 27 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. Remote public comments will be received by telephone during the meeting, prior to the close of public comment on an item. *67 (669) 900-6833, Meeting ID: 994 8182 5639.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

Recommended for you

(2) comments

MerryWidow

I doubt most RWC residents are even aware of this proposal or understand it. The DPW director held several meetings on the subject which were sparsely attended. I can count on one hand the number of residents who were in attendance at the June 3rd Community Zoom Meeting. BTW, Johanna wasn’t there.

Property taxes are payable in two installments, the County charges penalties when an installment is late. This has been the process as long as I have owned my home – 50 years. The process doesn’t change with the addition of the sewer charge. In each of Johanna’s examples, the 10% penalty for late payment will be $107 more with the sewer charge included than without.

To oppose moving sewer charges off the utility bill and putting them on the tax bill a rate-payer affected by this change must mail/email/deliver a letter to Council by 5:00 pm Monday, June 14, 2021 (emails can be received up until the close of the public hearing Monday night) with the following information: (i) a statement that it is a protest against the proposed change; (ii) Provide the name of the record owner or customer of record; (iii) Identify the affected parcel by assessor’s parcel number or service address. Protests will not be counted if any of the required elements (i through iii) are omitted.

The people who sign the petition do not indicate if they are an affected rate-payer nor do they provide the assessor’s parcel number, It is possible they aren’t even a resident of Redwood City or a homeowner in Redwood City. The city should not include the petition signers in the count towards the majority required to stop the transition.

Johanna

Most Residents in Redwood City do NOT support this proposal.

Over 300 residents has expressed their opposition to it in just the last week alone and there is an active campaign underway asking our City Council to vote no on it on Monday night.

Why Does This Matter?

If Council approves this proposal, it will impact every Homeowner in Redwood City.  

Sewer Service fees will be billed annually, in a lump sum, and will be subject to much steeper late fees, penalties, and consequences.

What does the City of Redwood City charge if you are late paying sewer fees now?

1.5% interest if not paid within 30 days.

5% or $3.00 (whichever is higher) if they issue a Shut-Off Notice.

          *With a $3.00 minimum, late fees are typically less than $15.00.

What does the County charge if you are late paying your Property Taxes?

Late by 1 Day- 10% off the entire Tax Bill.

Plus Penalties of 1.5% of the total amount owed

Plus a Redemption Fee $35.00

If left unpaid, the County can auction the home.

San Mateo County does NOT accept partial payments on Property Taxes.

If your property tax payment arrives late, even by one day, fees and penalties apply to the ENTIRE Tax Bill.

Here are some examples of how this proposal may impact you.

Currently, the annual Sewer Service Fee is $1,025.28.

* I bought my home in 1970. My Property Taxes are $1,840.00 a year or $920.00 per installment. My Property Tax bill will now be $2,868.28. The minimum amount I will pay for being 1 day late is $286.83.

* I bought my home in 2000. My Property Taxes are $12,885.00 a year or $6,442.50 per installment. My Property Tax bill will now be $13,913.28. The minimum amount I will pay if I am 1 day late is $1,391.33.

* I bought my home in 2020. My Property Taxes are $25,220.89 a year or $12,610.46 per installment. My Property Tax bill will now be $26,246.17. The minimum amount I will pay if I am 1 day late is: $2,624.62

COVID-19 has shown us all how quickly finances can change.

The Farm Hill Neighborhood held a meeting on this issue in May and formally voted to oppose this proposal.

We are asking our fellow Redwood City residents to join our efforts to oppose this proposal by signing the petition at  https://www.change.org/RWC-VoteNo and sharing it with family, friends, and neighbors who live in Redwood City.

For residents who prefer to e-mail Council, you can do so at council@redwoodcity.org

With just 3 more days left until the Council votes, we must do all we can to stop this proposal from passing.

If you would like to watch the Farm Hill Neighborhood meeting which includes a Presentation from City Staff on the Sewer Service Fee Proposal and our vote, you can do so at: www.farmhillneighborhood.com/post/farm-hill-neighborhood-meeting-5

Johanna Rasmussen

Chairwoman -Farm Hill Neighborhood

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for visiting the Daily Journal.

Please purchase an Enhanced Subscription to continue reading. To continue, please log in, or sign up for a new account.

We offer one free story view per month. If you register for an account, you will get two additional story views. After those three total views, we ask that you support us with a subscription.

A subscription to our digital content is so much more than just access to our valuable content. It means you’re helping to support a local community institution that has, from its very start, supported the betterment of our society. Thank you very much!