The average Half Moon Bay household’s annual utility costs could jump by about $135 next year, if local agencies adopt proposed rate hikes. The city of Half Moon Bay and the Coastside County Water District both expect to raise rates for local services starting next month.
Last night, the CCWD was set to approve a 12 percent rate increase for its 6,400 customers. That hike follows a 9 percent increase in sewer fees the Half Moon Bay City Council approved last week. The CCWD board met after Review print deadlines; for an update, visit www.hmbreview.com.
CCWD managers say the recent round of rate hikes comes as the result of district capital projects, notably a $7 million upgrade at the Denniston Treatment Plant. The proposed increase would raise about $750,000. The water district has steadily increased rates for each of the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, city officials say sewer rates must go up because they have stayed artificially low for years. Until 2009, the city was reportedly subsidizing the cost of running its sewer system by withdrawing about $1.9 million from its reserve fund.
Since the cost imbalance was discovered, the city has been notching up sewer rates each year to balance the costs of running the system. On June 5, the council unanimously approved the next round of higher rates. Elected officials said they were cleaning up after poor choices made by past city officials.
“I’m going to write a book called, ‘How Not to Set Sewer Charges,’” said Mayor Allan Alifano. “It’s beyond belief that this is even happening.”
The newly raised fees are expected to generate $4.57 million for the city, about half of which will go to pay for services with the Sewer Authority Mid-coastside, which manages sewage on the Coastside. The remainder will go toward building back the sewer reserves and beginning repairs on the city’s aging network of drainage pipes.
As part of the action last week, the city also approved a second 9 percent rate increase that will take effect in July 2013. That increase would raise the Half Moon Bay average sewer costs by $64.
The council received 11 letters of protest from ratepayers urging officials not to approve the higher costs. Under state rules, a utility agency is prohibited from raising fees if a majority of ratepayers submits a written letter of protest.