Water Rates Topic of Discussion at Public Hearing
Water was the topic of discussion as more than 50 people attended the July 11th Millbrae City Council meeting, sharing their support or opposition to the proposed water rate changes that would repair the City’s aging system.
“We have to fix our water infrastructure, but getting there is a challenge,” said Millbrae Mayor Reuben Holober. “We can’t keep passing this problem along. It will get worse and more expensive if we do nothing. That is not an option.”
14 residents spoke during the public hearing, expressing a variety of concerns with the cost increases and timing of the proposed water rate changes.
“I think we are late at this,” said one resident during the public hearing. “I think we should have started many years ago at increasing the rates in a more incremental fashion so that we wouldn’t have such a huge hit at this point. I think it would have been better to improve the system incrementally.”
Since 2013, the San Francisco Public Utility Commission has increased the City’s wholesale water rates by 67%. Because the City has not passed these rate increases to residents, funding reserves that pay for the system’s operations, repairs and upgrades have been depleted, and are forecast to run out by 2019.
“I think it’s clear the rates have to go up just to make the repairs and replacements that are needed,” said Mayor Holober. “What I’m not convinced on is that we have to fix the system at the work rate that has been proposed. Maybe we fix 2% of the infrastructure each year, and not 2.8%. That would help lower the monthly costs on residents.”
Following the public hearing, the City Council directed staff to bring back other options that would lessen the impacts of water rate increases on residents. Those options are expected to be presented in September.
During the 45 days of public comment prior to Tuesday night’s hearing, residents expressed concerns that water and sewer rate increases would push two-month billing above $500.
According to staff analysis, in 2021, if the current proposed rates are adopted, the average customer’s water bill is projected to increase to $106.80 per month. Compounded with other water and sewer rates, and assuming average usage, a monthly utility bill would increase to $192 per month, or $383 for a two-month bill.
The proposed increase would generate enough revenue to pay for wholesale water rates and allow the City to replace its water storage tanks and street lines, most of which are between 60 and 70 years old. The life expectancy of Millbrae’s water infrastructure is 50 years.
To read the entire water rate study, and learn more about the state of Millbrae’s water system, please visit: www.ci.millbrae.ca.us/waterutilityinfrastructure.
Please click here to watch the entire meeting.
In addition, the City offers a Customer Assistance Program for Low Income Residents. For information about this program, contact the Millbrae Water Department at (650) 259-2420.