Monday, June 25 , 2018, 1:41 pm | Mostly Cloudy 68º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Carpinteria Water District Approves Rate Increases

Despite public opposition, members say they had no choice given the district's financial challenges

After weeks of contentious debate, the Carpinteria Water District Board voted unanimously to approve rate increases, much to the chagrin of customers present at Wednesday night’s meeting.

In the early 1990s, the district purchased an excess of water from the state, and the problem was compounded as plans to sell the water fell through. Aging infrastructure also compounds the district’s costs.

The district is facing a series of challenges, said Norma Rosales, the district’s business manager. Increased water treatment costs associated with the Zaca Fire, a failed water deal with oil company Plains Exploration Petroleum and increasing personnel costs were all part of the problem, she said.

Even after cost-cutting measures were put toward each of those items, a deficit of $390,000 still exists, she said.

Carpinteria resident Brian Nash said he was concerned about how a rate increase looked at a time when money is tight for everyone. “Everybody out there is fighting to make a living these days,” he said. “I really think right now you could probably dig into your budget, find $390,000 and forgo a rate increase this year.”

The water rate increase is a fixed percentage for all municipal, industrial, commercial and residential uses. In addition, the cost to offset the loss from the PXP offer is also a 3 percent increase. Overall, most customers can expect an increase of 1.9 percent for the lowest users to 2.9 percent for the highest, district staff member Alex Keuper said.

Board member Matthew Roberts was the lone voice of dissent. He said he felt that the board was responsive last year to concerns about rate increases. He said the staff analyzed the rates, and that water rates were actually reduced for lower water users. About 2,700 master water meters, which supply water to apartment buildings and motor homes, saw a rate reduction of 11 percent, Keuper said.

“Obviously, the water district can’t reduce the rates for everybody and make our budget whole,” he said, and noted that people who consumed more water saw their prices increase as a result. After his comments, however, Roberts changed his vote to maintain accord on the dais.

Article Image
Resident Brian Nash, with district staff member Alex Keuper looking on, speaks out against the rate increases. “I really think right now you could probably dig into your budget, find $390,000 and forgo a rate increase this year,” he told members of the Carpinteria Water District Board. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Several speakers encouraged the board to deny the rate increases as an olive branch to the community.

“We need to turn around the relationship between the community and the board,” resident Ann Bardach said. She recommended a series of measures the board could take to cut back as an alternative to the increases, including combining with the Montecito Water District, seeking cheaper legal counsel and even cutting back on health benefits for board members.

Resident Carl Stucky said that because many businesses are cutting back, he found it hard to believe the district couldn’t find $200,000, which would represent about 2 percent of the district’s budget. “The difference I think is that we have a public agency that has captive ratepayers,” he said.

Board President Frederick Lemere took issue with Stucky’s statement, however, and said the board has been working since November to trim costs.

“There’s been considerable effort made to reduce and whittle down the dollars involved,” he said. The system is extremely vulnerable, he said, and if a significant event such as an earthquake were to hit the city and destroy some of the infrastructure, costs would be significant.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >