Saturday, February 17 , 2018, 6:09 pm | Fair 63º


Local News

Santa Barbara Poised to Raise Utility Rates

Increasing fees will help the city with construction and infrastructure costs

With the City of Santa Barbara planning to boost utility rates along with the rest of the 2013-14 budget, and the City Council held a public hearing this week about the rate increases.

Water, wastewater and trash rates are rising to cover costs of more construction and infrastructure.

The water-rate structure will stay mostly the same, but rates are expected to increase 3 percent across the board.

The average single-family residential customer can expect an increase from $67.75 to $67.81 monthly.

Wastewater rates will increase 4 percent and could result in small increases, city staff members said.

The biggest change comes to trash customers, since the city’s new contract with MarBorg Industries includes a 2.68 percent rate increase and different charges for services such as recycling, green waste and food scraps.

Multi-unit residential customers will see increases up to 15 percent, and commercial customers could see rate hikes of 25 percent or more depending on how often their trash is collected and how much they already use recycling and food scraps services, according to city staff.

Rate studies expect 30 percent of business customers to see rates go down, half will see increases up to 25 percent and about 20 percent will see rates increase over 25 percent.

There are also about 60 total agriculture water customers, with 10 to 15 outside city limits, city staff members said.

Heal the Ocean director Hillary Hauser spoke in favor of the new rates, saying it was important to make them high enough to keep up with infrastructure costs.

“We really need to convince ratepayers that trash is a valuable service and it’s worth every penny,” she said. “We can turn lights off, read by candlelight and put on a sweater, but we can’t live in our waste. This rate increase is so modest, and I wish it were more.”

Water Resources manager Rebecca Bjork also reminded council members that the Lake Cachuma reservoir levels would drop noticeably over the summer, since the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District will be releasing water to replenish groundwater supplies.

“We have saved water in Cachuma to make up for it, but it’s a milestone that shows us it’s dry,” she said.

City Councilman Bendy White said it will be a shock for people driving by.

“Even when we made all these wonderful plans, when these conditions exist, it feels dicey,” he said. “Hopefully, we get a nice, righteous rain this next year, and if not, the cumulative years of drought wear on our supply.”

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.

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