Monday, February 8 , 2016, 3:27 am | Fair 46º

Rates for Water, Sewer and Trash Service May Go Up in Santa Barbara

Officials say a recent legal settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper over sewage spills is partly to blame for the hikes

MarBorg Industries became the only trash and recycling hauler in Santa Barbara after purchasing its main competitor, Allied Waste Services, last summer.
MarBorg Industries became the only trash and recycling hauler in Santa Barbara after purchasing its main competitor, Allied Waste Services, last summer.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The City of Santa Barbara wants to raise wastewater rates by 10 percent in July, partly because of a costly legal settlement that requires the city to spend an extra $5 million on sewer-system pipe repairs over the next five years.

The city also proposes a 3.5 percent increase to water usage and monthly service charges, and a 2.69 percent increase to trash and recycling rates.

A public hearing on the proposed rate increases will be held at 2 p.m. June 12 in the City Council Chambers, 735 Anacapa St.

The recent settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, which sued last April alleging Clean Water Act violations from sewage spills, means the city will repair or replace an additional two miles of pipe annually. That cost is passing to customers with the proposed 6-percent rate increase, which piles on top of a planned 4-percent hike to deal with facility improvements at El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant.

While Santa Barbara Channelkeeper pointed to the 171 spills since 2006, with above-average rates in 2008-09, city officials maintain they had been working on — and mostly solved — the problem by the time the organization sued in 2011.

“It was very disappointing to see Channelkeeper sue us, as we had already turned a corner and made dramatic improvements in collection-system performance,” Public Works Director Christine Andersen said after the settlement.

An average single-family residential customer would see a $3.56 monthly increase in his or her bill, according to city documents.

Water rates would increase 3.5 percent to fund infrastructure improvements at the treatment plant, and replacing water mains and pumping stations. The lingering effects of the 2007 Zaca Fire are still hampering treatment efforts, and the city is also funding a rehabilitation of the Ortega Groundwater Treatment Plant, which will help replace water supplies lost during a drought or other emergencies.

The 2.69 percent increase in trash rates would compensate for higher “tipping fees” at the Tajiguas Landfill, and a yearly Consumer Price Index raise in contract costs with the hauler.

MarBorg Industries purchased its main competitor, Allied Waste Services, last summer, and became the city’s only trash and recycling hauler. The city is negotiating a long-term contract with the company, and “if agreement on a new contract can be reached, the hauler has agreed to forgo the 1.38 percent CPI increase for fiscal year 2013,” the public hearing notice states.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 04.19.12 @ 12:24 AM

Got to pay for those over paid over staffed union losers. This is run poorly, and you taxpayers are getting screwed again..

» on 04.19.12 @ 03:05 AM

These rate increases are infuriating. Maybe SB Channelkeeper should pay for the entire rate increase, since they saw fit to sue the city. Although if SB was so upset with this organization, why in the heck did they settle with them.

Now that Marborg has a monopoly, don’t hold your breath for fiscal restraint in the future. Expect your trash rates to go up considerably. Isn’t there anyone on the stupid City Council who is looking out for the financially stressed middle class residents? Oh yeah, Michael Self, except our nutty electorate gave her the boot.

» on 04.24.12 @ 04:15 PM

SB city is currently billing a sewer use tax on city utilities bills, but it looks more like a water tax, since it’s based on water usage, including water used for irrigation that doesn’t enter the sewer system. It’s a good means of discouraging residents from planting vegetable gardens or fruit trees, and a disincentive for use of greywater systems for reuse of water for irrigation.
This proposed tax is defined by the city as a special tax to recover litigation costs, and special taxes as well as use new use taxes need a 2/3 popular vote for approval under Prop 218, which was implemented by addition of a new article to the California Constitution, XIIIC Section 1(a) Voter Approval for Local Tax Levies, and article XIIID, Assessment and Property-related Fee Reform.
Proposition 218 changed the law by adding article XIIIC to the California Constitution. It affects tax levies in these principle ways.
• Charter Cities. Charter cities must subject the imposition, extension or increase of general taxes, as well as special taxes, to the voters for approval
Any opinions on this? I can’t see that this is a legal tax, and it seems precisely to be exactly the type of tax imposed by a city that Prop 218 was written to preclude under state law:
• that local governments have subjected taxpayers to excessive tax, assessment, fee and charge increases that frustrate the purpose of the voter approval requirement and threaten the economic security of California; and
• that Proposition 218 protects taxpayers by limiting the methods by which local governments exact revenue from taxpayers without their consent.

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