Padre Dam OKs water rate hike
Union Tribune (2006-05-24) Anne Krueger
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Vote delay to notify customers overruled
By Anne Krueger
, STAFF WRITER
May 24, 2006
SANTEE – The board of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District voted yesterday for the district's first rate increase in five years, overruling an effort by board president Joel Anderson
to put off the vote until customers got notification of the proposed rate hike.
The vote to increase rates by an average of $3.21 a month beginning in January was approved 3-1, with Anderson opposed and Lex Boswell absent.
Padre Dam's finance director, Doug Wilson, said the rate increase was needed to combat operating losses expected to reach $2.9 million.
Inflation has gone up 20 percent since the last rate increase, Wilson said.
The board and Padre Dam's staff have spent months looking for ways to reduce or avoid a rate increase. An employee study of cost-cutting measures found ways to save $816,000 in expenses, including $171,000 in savings by a recent move to a new district office at Santee Lakes.
District employees also plan to begin using new budgeting methods in which each cost is analyzed and prioritized before it is included in the budget for the following year.
The water district serves 125,000 customers in Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Flinn Springs, Harbison Canyon, Blossom Valley, Alpine, Dehesa and Crest. It also operates the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve.
At yesterday's meeting, Wilson said in response to a question from Anderson that no notice was sent to customers in their bills about the rate increase. Wilson said the district used to send out notices of increases, but the board voted unanimously in 2002 to stop the practice.
Anderson, who is running for state Assembly, asked that the vote on the increase be delayed in order to include notices with water bills. Because of Padre Dam's billing cycle, that would have delayed the vote by four months. His motion died when no other board member backed it.
Anderson then proposed delaying the vote for a month and said he would send out notices at his own expense. Board member Jesse Dixon backed that suggestion, but it also died.
Board member Augie Scalzitti
told Anderson a delay was pointless when Anderson already had stated he would vote against the rate increase.
“It takes a courageous person to vote for an increase that's needed,” he said.
Board member Andy Menshek
also refused to delay the vote.
“It's the coward's way out to push this under the rug,” Menshek said, saying the vote should not be delayed because of “political grandstanding.”
Noting that only four people spoke at the meeting about the rate increase, Anderson said the room would be packed if Padre Dam's customers knew about the rate increase.
“I think this is important enough so all our ratepayers know,” he said.
Two of the people who spoke to the board about the rate increase are former Padre Dam employees.
John Pumphrey, a Santee resident who retired from Padre Dam nine years ago, said he was concerned the district waited so long for a rate increase. Smaller, more frequent increases are better, Pumphrey said.
“If that means yearly, then do it yearly so we can adjust our budgets accordingly,” he said.
Kathy who retired from Padre Dam last year, said the district should look for savings such as cutting back on marketing and Rotary memberships.
“Why did we wait five years to put a cap on what we were spending?” Delaney said.
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