Monday, September 25 , 2017, 11:28 pm | Fair 62º


Local News

Santa Barbara May Raise Sewer Rates 5.5%, Trash 2%

The City of Santa Barbara's Wastewater Department wants to increase sewer rates by 5.5 percent next year to cover huge capital-improvement projects coming up.

It’s unusual to have rates increase this much, but the city is preparing for a lot more debt service, according to Finance Director Bob Samario.

Santa Barbara is going out for $35 million in State Water Resources Control Board loans to rehabilitate the secondary treatment at the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant and improve the anaerobic digestion process, Wastewater Department Director Christopher Toth said.

Both major projects should be finished by 2019 and won’t interrupt wastewater treatment operations, Toth said.

El Estero has been in service since the early 1980s, and the improvements will ensure the city can get another 30 to 50 years of use out of it, he said.

Upgrades will make the plant more efficient but won’t expand capacity at all.

The Wastewater Department has been increasing rates by 4 percent per year recently, so this is a significant bump.

Toth told the city Finance Committee that the long-range plan is to increase rates by 5.5 percent for the next two years and 5 percent annually after that.

Notices will go out to customers soon, and a public hearing will be held in June.

The City Council doesn’t normally weigh in on rate increases, but will discuss the sewer rates since they are increasing more than usual, Samario said.

Trash rates could be raised 2 percent this year. Santa Barbara’s contract with MarBorg Industries includes a Consumer Price Index increase every year, which is low at 0.9 percent due to the nearly stagnant economy, Samario said.

The city proposes a 0.69 percent increase to replace and maintain the 1,300 city-owned trash containers like the ones on State Street and in front of City Hall. Most of them were installed by the Redevelopment Agency, but no money was set aside to maintain or replace them.

Finance Committee members were supportive of the idea since the CPI is low this year, Samario said.

Santa Barbara County regularly raises tipping fees (for dumping trash at the landfill) but may not this year, which means that cost wouldn’t be included in rate increases next year.  

Water rates are up in the air since the city isn’t sure what will happen with the drought.

City staff suggested a 3 percent rate increase, but wants to wait on a decision until the end of the rainy season.

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.

  • 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 >

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.

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 >