Sunday, February 25 , 2018, 7:11 am | Fair 38º


Local News

Goleta Water District Postpones Decision on Raising Rates for New Commercial Water

73 percent hike would, in part, help the GWD cover the rising cost of state water

The discussion at Tuesday’s Goleta Water District meeting centered on one question for decision-makers: Should growth pay for itself? District staff posed the policy conundrum to the board, which is mulling a 73 percent increase for any application that requires an increase in commercial water use.

Any amount greater than what’s been used on the property previously would be subject to the higher rate. The move comes at a time when district officials say they’re just trying to keep up with the costs of state water.

The board ultimately pushed that decision down the road, at least until its next meeting, but the problem still looms.

Staff made the case Tuesday that rates haven’t been updated since 2006, and that they didn’t include a charge to help fund the district’s facilities. The district’s rates are seldom evaluated, even as the State Water Project raises its rates annually, so a greater deficit occurs.

The current cost for commercial users is $26,240 per acre foot, but that would increase to $45,361 per acre foot, allowing the district to cover its costs.

State water costs the district $8 million annually, about a third of the local agency’s budget, according to GWD General Manager John McInnes. The changes, if approved, wouldn’t affect existing commercial rates.

If the board chooses not to increase rates for new developments, it could raise fees for all users to compensate, according to district counsel.

“A zero increase ignores the reality of what is before us,” board president Bill Rosen said.

Several attorneys also appeared at Tuesday’s meeting, representing clients in the Goleta Valley. Attorney Peter Brown took an opposing view, saying the district can’t require new development to subsidize that which already exists.

“What you’re requiring is way in excess of what the law requires,” Brown said.

The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce is concerned about the possibility of the rate increase, said president and CEO Kristin Amyx, adding that the changes would place “an extraordinary burden” on new businesses.

Ken Alker, a landowner and local businessman who is working on a project of 60 units of workforce housing on Calle Real and Glen Annie Road, also expressed concern.

“I didn’t realize my costs would be this high,” he said of the proposal, adding that if the changes go through, he will have to pull the plug on the project.

The district is in the process of evaluating all of its rates and will hold a public hearing on March 31 at the Goleta Union School District, 401 N. Fairview Ave., at 5:30 p.m. The board’s next regular meeting will be held April 12.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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