During a special meeting Monday night, the Goleta Sanitary District Board of Directors voted 4-1 to increase service charges for commercial clients by 4 percent.
The move will create a cost increase of $77.57 for 40 gallons a day per office unit, defined as 500 square feet of space. The fee is designed to utilize new definitions and revised usage attributed to office customers, while eliminating potential inequities within such classifications.
“Option 3b was developed with the underlying principal to take existing revenue of office usage and increase it by 4 percent, then divide it up among all buildings by square footage expressed in terms of office units,” said Kamil Azoury, a general management engineer for the Goleta Sanitary District. “We would collect $431,000 with an increase of only approximately $16,000 across the board.”
Other options on the table included using a standard office entitlement of 100 gallons per day per office unit, similar to a rate structure utilized by the City of Los Angeles, based on the recommendations of an ad-hoc committee formulated to create a new rate structure. But Azoury acknowledged that many office building owners had raised issues regarding the amount of entitlement, leading to the abandonment of such an option.
Another option looked at leaving the current sewer service charges unchanged, which many speakers publicly favored Monday night during the public comment period, in order to encourage the Goleta Sanitary District board to further examine and propose new rate structures for the following year.
Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that another year would allow the board to come back with a well thought-out methodology created in a way that office building owners could understand.
“We want to be supportive and work with you so that the business community doesn’t face a major upheaval with a huge increase to cost of business, which would disrupt our relationship with the district,” Miller said. “Give it the study and analysis it deserves, and we will give you the cooperation and consensus that you want.”
Beth Collins-Burgard of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck also expressed concern about creating proportional changes within the new rate structure.
“I’m concerned we’re not being proportional within groups, and I’m questioning whether square footage is still going to be accurate,” she said. “For instance, considering hallways and other areas which are not being used as office space but are being calculated into office unit space.”
Hank Bowis, general partner with Hollister Professional Park office suites located on the corner of Hollister and Patterson avenues, urged the board to act on an alternative option that would spread the burden of rate increases over all office buildings, rather than change nothing.
Jeff Bermant, owner of the building at 5383 Hollister Ave., also drew attention to the stipulation in option 3b that the $77.57 charge per office unit includes temporary fees, and would eventually be reduced to about $50. Azory described the reduction as a surcharge every type of building, not just office users, will pay in order to generate revenue needed to pay for the bid of a new facility.
“I encourage the board to put all of the numbers out to office users so they would be able to understand what they’re being charged and what the final amount will be,” Bermant said.
After nearly 90 minutes of discussion, board member Steven Majoewsky put option 3b to a vote. Josh Fox, who cast the lone dissenting vote, expressed concern regarding how many office building were actually surveyed and accounted for within the district. But Majoewsky acknowledged the board’s efforts to fix inequities among office building owners being charged too much versus too little through the creation of option 3b.
“We have thoroughly explored this and our constituents understand what we’re trying to do here,” Majoewsky said. “We were elected to do the right thing, and I for one believe we are all trying to do as much as we can here today.”