Opinion and Commentary Originally Published By Donna Westfall- March 23, 2018 – Republished 12/27/23 because of an impending sewer rate increase in 2024 and a change in the law.
While the Federal government and California’s government is grappling with massive deficits by comparison our little dot in the universe with it’s ever increasing sales taxes and sewer rates doesn’t seem as significant. But there are so many taxes and fees that bombard us on a daily basis sometimes it’s a wonder that we have any disposable income at all. Wait a second, a lot don’t have any disposable income anymore, thus the increase in homelessness.
Why does it appear that another sewer rate increase is on the horizon? Because on Friday, February 2, 2018 the agenda appeared on the City’s website as agenda item #7, and their Sewer Fund had this:
“The Finance Department has a recommended increase of $4,000 for anticipated Prop 218 notices later this fiscal year.“‘
That was the first clue that a sewer rate increase is coming. Keep in mind that the majority of property owners/sewer ratepayers are not in the city. So, they CANNOT vote for or against any sewer rate increase if it becomes a ballot measure since the sewer system is a City owned project. ONLY registered voters in the city can vote on ballot measures. (SEE EDITORS NOTE BELOW.) The ONLY way that property owners or tenants that pay the sewer bill have any voice is to sign what is called a Prop 218 protest. And that’s why it was apparent a sewer rate increase was in the works.
Also, a Prop 218 protest has 45 days from start to finish. If it’s successful, the rate increase cannot take place. UPDATE 2023: But if it is unsuccessful, the increase can go into effect in the summer of 2024.
Now, when you watch the video from their February 5th City Council meeting, Interim City Manager, Eric Weir, states that they should be good to go on a rate increase in July.
During the meeting, the mid-year budget vote was approved 5-0 and after it was approved, Eric Weir explained that they were looking for a Cost of Living Increase (COLA) for the upcoming sewer rate. You can watch that video here:
The usual modus operandi is that some consulting firm will do an analysis to justify the need for a sewer rate increase which is all based on information spoon fed to said consulting firm by the city. That consulting firm, thanks to Prop 1 funds, will thankfully not cost the local taxpayer/ratepayer any money because they are paid by the state. Whoa Nellie – doesn’t the State get funded by taxpayers? Of course they do. Now just watch. Who wants to bet that they will indeed give an in depth analysis that the rates have to go up.
This third party consultant is:
H F & H Consultants,
201 N Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
So, I put in a call to them and spoke with Rick Simonsen. He said he is working on the project with Mr. Farnkoph. I asked him if they could tell me:
1.) Will they take any input other than the city input?
His answer, YES. They want to hear from the ratepayers, stake holders.
2) When will their report be completed?
His response; he spoke with the City earlier this week and will have an answer shortly.
Rick said he would call me back this morning soon after Mr. Farnkoph got into the office.
Naturally, those affected by 10 years of continual sewer rate increases have a mountain of information to give them.
The Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association has offered on more than a dozen occasions to work with the City on resolving the sewer rate problem, but again, the City doesn’t seem the least bit inclined to take them up on their offer. Of particular concern is all the years worth of documents and video’s destroyed by the City.
NOTE BY EDITOR: According to a 2020 California Supreme Court ruling in Wilde v The City of Dunsmuir, sewer and water utility rate increases done by ordinance ARE NOT SUBJECT TO REFERENDUM. The only opportunity property owners/tenants who pay the sewer bills have is with the Proposition 218 protest method.