City Makes It Hard For Citizens To Protest Water Rates Increase
NOTICE OF RIGHT TO VOTE AND PROTEST WATER RATES INCREASE
[State sets Ventura Water Conservation at 16%]
If you are a property owner you have received a NOTICE REGARDING SETTING OF WATER RATES from the City of Ventura (Ventura Water). It was mailed in April.
This notice details what the new rates will be, under water shortage conditions, and provides a complicated chart so that you can determine the impact on your monthly billing rate. The notice announces that a PUBLIC HEARING will be held before the Ventura City Council on JUNE 8, 2015, at City Hall.
If you do not favor this increase then the City notice tells you that the parcel owner, or customer of record on the water bill, must file a written protest with the City Clerk at City Hall, or at least be mailed, before the hearing date.
The City did NOT enclose a protest form (ballot) with the rate increase notice. You can find the Water Shortage Rate Protest form by going online to a link provided in the body of the letter, however the form is difficult to find from that link. For your convenience you can find the WATER SHORTGAGE RATE PROTEST form by clicking on the Protest Button below.
If you do not have a computer, protesting is not as easy. You will have to go to the City Clerk’s office at City Hall. Please share this with neighbors and friends.
IF YOU DON’T PROTEST, YOU VOTE “YES” AUTOMATICALLY
Unless a majority of the property owners (51%) file a protest, these water shortage rates will go into effect. Renters have no right to protest. Business owners have no right to protest. Only 32,000 people that own property with water meters have a right to vote. The remaining 81,000 people in the City of Ventura are effectively disenfranchised. They have no vote but will have to pay.
“This city has manipulated and used fees, rates, enterprise funds to further their social and downtown improvements. When this ordinance first started it excluded the mobile home owners from participating because the mobile home communities are all listed as a one property owner, so therefore one owner per park, 10 parks, approx 2500 to 3000 residents without a yes or no vote.”
Jack Tingstrom, former Mayor of Ventura
HOW IS THIS LEGAL WITHOUT A BALLOT VOTE?
The simple answer is Proposition 218, a measure approved by a majority of California voters. This is not the usual democratic election process. Usually with a tax increase measure all voters are provided a ballot. If 2/3 of the voters do not approve, the measure fails.
In this instance Proposition 218 governs. The underlying principle is that “costs of service”, such as the cost of producing water or treating waste water is in a special category because “the cost” can be objectively determined.
But what happens when the government starts calling something a cost when it is not truly a cost of providing the service? It is here that mischief and the potential for abuse abounds. Who can forget the $1 million taken out of the water fund by the City Council and put into the “public art fund”, which was then used to build public housing? You did not get to vote on that.
IMPACT OF THE PROPOSED WATER SHORTAGE RATE INCREASES
The Proposed Water Shortage Rates (PWSR) proposal must be looked at very carefully by each property owner, and compared to your most recent water bills. This proposal changes (lowers) the tiers. If a single family residence (SFR) now uses 0 to 14 HCF (748 gallons equals 1 HCF) you are in Tier 1. This costs you $2.40 per HCF in addition to the base fixed cost for water of $29.28, The fixed cost will increase over the next 3 years as well as the flow rate charges. In addition you pay a fixed cost for sewer/wastewater of $19.96 plus $2.91 per HCF flow charge up to 30 HCF.
If the PWSR is adopted and the City Council continues to declare a 20% conservation rate, notwithstanding that the State Water Board (SWRCB) has set our rate at 16%, then you will pay more. The tier rates will be changed – Tier 1 will be lowered 0 to 6 HCF, Tier 2 will be 7-14 HCF, Tier 3 will be 15 to 30 and Tier 4 will be 30 HCF and above. In a household of 4 people 6 HCF equals 74.8 gallons per day, or 18.7 gallons per person per day.
Using the current approved rate schedule for a single family residence, with a 3/4″ meter, using 21 HCF, which is the average residential use in Ventura according to Ventura Water Dept., and comparing it to the PWSR here is a chart comparing what you pay now versus what you will pay if the PWSR is adopted.
VENTURA IS NOT IN A STAGE 3 DROUGHT
In the fall of 2014 the City Council, in response to the Governor’s statewide drought declaration, declared that our city was in a Stage 3 drought thus requiring a 20% reduction in water consumption.
That declaration has been driving the Ventura City and Ventura Water agenda and publicity campaign. The reality is that during the 1990 drought the citizens of this community embraced water conservation and reduced consumption by 5,000 acre feet. Thus, the State Water Resources Control Board just determined that the City of Ventura is only required to reduce water usage by 16%, not the 25% that has been widely circulated by Ventura Water over the last year.
”The Governor’s April 1st Executive Order called for the State Water Board to implement a mandatory 25% statewide conservation requirement for urban water usage. All documents related to implementation of the Executive Order, including the Proposed Emergency Regulations released yesterday…
The City of Ventura’s (San Buenaventura) proposed conservation standard as of 4/28/15 would be 16%”
Jessica Bean, Engineering Geologist, SWRCB
Members of VREG are concerned about several things related to the current process of putting water shortage rates in place.
• We are concerned that the estimates for our community (as shown above) are too aggressive.
• We’re concerned that the protest form was not included in the formal notification from Ventura Water. Providing a link that then leads to a lengthy document where another link to the protest form is buried is hardly calculated to provide “fair notice” under Proposition 218.
• We are concerned that all citizens who are affected by rate increases (like apartment dwellings) do not have a voice in this process.
• We’re concerned that ratepayers understand that they will need to either make a change in their water use or be willing to pay additionally for not reducing their use.
• We are concerned about our water quantity and quality for the future. Addressing that will require courageous and transparent leadership. 25 years ago all our citizens voted for desalinization to provide a new water resource. City government then did nothing. Further procrastination is not recommended.
Mayor Heitmann and this Council talk about creating confidence in City government and proclaim that they want citizen involvement and transparency. This PWSR proposal and notice to our citizens do not serve that purpose. Perhaps “they” should learn to “walk their talk”.
R. Alviani, K. Corse, T. Cook
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord, S. Doll
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