SOQUEL -- The Soquel Creek Water District will hold a public hearing next month on a proposed rate increase, with hopes of raising millions in the next several years to address critical water supply issues in the coming years.
If approved, the three-year increase would generate $4.7 million, according to district figures. Taj Dufour, the interim general manager, emphasized none of those funds would be used to build a proposed desalination plant, a joint effort between the Soquel Creek Water District and City of Santa Cruz. However, some would be used to complete an environmental report on the controversial project, according to the district website.
The district's boundaries extend from 41st Avenue in Capitola to La Selva Beach, and the most of its 14,200 connections serve single-family households, Dufour said. Rates are based on us and a monthly service charge. The average household uses about 10,500 gallons each billing cycle and has an average bimonthly bill of $108.42, according to the district's figures.
Under the new rates, that would go up by nearly 20 percent, or $21.24, by 2015. Meanwhile, ratepayers who fall into the "moderately high" usage bracket would see a nearly 32 percent jump, while those in the "high" usage category will pay nearly 42 percent more. The proposed schedule also includes a new tier, but it will only affect higher-than-average consumers.
The extra funding is needed because "over the next three years, we have over $25 million identified for capital improvement projects," Dufour said. The rate increase would provide a way for the district to cover the costs of such projects as replacing aging wells and improving infrastructure, including a $4 million main improvement project on Soquel Drive slated to begin early next month.
Unless a majority of the district's 38,000 customers submit written letters of protest before the public hearing takes place, the new rates would be in effect for three years starting March 1. Letters were sent out to ratepayers last month alerting them to the proposal, but as of last week, only a few dozen letters had been received, Dufour said.
The last increase went into effect in January 2010, though it was less than what district officials initially proposed.
At the time, they said they needed to increase rates by 9 percent each year for the next three years to "ensure a reliable and safe water supply," but after widespread public dissent, the district agreed to cut the increase to 5 percent.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: Public hearing on a proposed rate increase for ratepayers in the Soquel Creek Water District.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 5
WHERE: Capitola City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave., Capitola
INFORMATION: 831-475-8500 or firstname.lastname@example.org or http://soquelcreekwater.org.