The average Half Moon Bay household’s annual utility costs could jump by about $135 next year, according to local agencies considering two rate hikes. The city of Half Moon Bay and the Coastside County Water District both expect to push higher fees on ratepayers for the costs of local services starting next month.
Water board members are scheduled, Tuesday, to approve a 12 percent rate increase for the district's 6,400 customers. That hike follows a 9 percent increase in sewer fees signed off by the Half Moon Bay City Council earlier this week.
CCWD managers say the recent round of rate hikes comes as the result of district capital projects, particularly 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.
Offering a different explanation, city officials say sewer rates must go up because they have stayed artificially low for years. Up 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 out the costs of running the system. Earlier this week, council members unanimously approved the next round of higher rates, saying 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 new fees are expected to generate $4.57 million more for the city, about half of which will go to pay for services with the Sewer Authority Mid-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 an additional $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.