Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 5:21 am | Fair 42º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara May Hike Water Rates Again After $62,000 Consultant Study

It’s one of the cruel paradoxes of water conservation: The more people save, the more the city of Santa Barbara increases its rates.

The city will face an $8 million budget shortfall in its water fund if it doesn’t raise rates or plunge into its reserves because residents and businesses have been conserving water at a high rate. 

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to spend up to $62,000 on a consultant to decide how much the city will need to raise rates to make up for the possible shortfall for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1. 

The city will have to increase water-rate revenues by as much as 22 percent next year, staff said.

Last year, the city increased its revenue by 30 percent, and 8 percent the year before. 

The consultant will study the rates and come up with a plan to boost revenues. In general, people who use less water have lower rates, and people who aren't conserving more than they were last year will pay a higher per-unit cost. 

The city could have spent more reserve funds and raised rates less, but decided that it was best to consider hiking the rates as high as possible, then pull back if necessary.

“If you start with the scenario of higher rates, you have more flexibility,” said Kelley Dyer, the city’s water resources supervisor.

The city currently requires residents to conserve at a rate of 25 percent compared to the previous year, but for 2017, that number will increase to 35 percent.

Dyer said that it won’t be much of a stretch for most residents.

“It’s not a big change in behavior that we would be asking of our customers,” Dyer said. “They are already conserving at almost that level.”

If the city receives a deluge of rain in the next month, the water rate conservation goals could be softened. 

“Hopefully we can smooth things out over time, and Mother Nature can help us out a bit,” said Mayor Helene Schneider. 

Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark said part of the budget hit is coming from the fact that it will cost the city about $3 million to process water through the desalination plant that is under construction.

The city staff will return to the council in April with the results of the study and decide whether and how much it needs to raise rates.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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.



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 >