The Goleta Water District office at 4699 Hollister Ave.
The Goleta Water District board is considering proposed rate increases to help fund operations. “In the simplest terms, we continue to spend more money than we are receiving from our ratepayers,” board member Tom Evans says. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Goleta Water District customers will get an opportunity to weigh in on proposed increases to water rates and charges to fund operations, meet district debt covenants and finance critical capital project needs.

At a special meeting early next week, the district’s board of directors will consider an ordinance to enact new rates effective July 1. The proposed rates cannot be implemented until adopted by the board after a public hearing.

“In the simplest terms, we continue to spend more money than we are receiving from our ratepayers,” board member Tom Evans said. “That’s the reason for the increase.”

For a single-family residential customer with commodity charges — using between zero and six HCF (hundred cubic feet) of water — a price of $5.26 per HCF would increase to the proposed $5.79 per HCF on July 1. One HCF equals 748 gallons of water.

Under the increases, the commodity charges per HCF with a price of $6.46 per HCF for seven to 12 HCF would increase to the proposed $7.81 per HCF, a price of $6.46 per HCF for 13 to 16 HCF would increase to the proposed $9.96 per HCF, and a price of $7.12 per HCF for more than 17 HCF would increase to the proposed $9.96 per HCF on July 1.

There is a tiered rate structure for different levels of water usage. There also are proposed increases for urban, recreation irrigation, urban agriculture, the Goleta West Conduit and recycled water.

For water rates, single-family residential customers would pay a fixed meter charge per month from the current $16.41 for zero to six HCF to the proposed $22.12 on July 1. 

For fixed meter service (5/8-inch or 3/4-inch water meter size) charges per month, a single-family residential customer with a price of $16.41 for zero to six HCF would increase to the proposed $22.12; a price of $33.86 for seven to 12 HCF would increase to the proposed $39.76, and a price of $51.46 for more than 13 HCF would increase to the proposed $56.41 on July 1.

User charge increases are proposed for bigger meter sizes.

For a single-family residential water customer with a 5/8-inch meter — using nine HCF per month — the total monthly charge would increase by $13.13, from $84.80 per month under the current charge to $97.93 on July 1. 

Goleta Water District rates

Goleta Water District rates. (Goleta Water District graphic)

Click here to view the GWD’s online calculator to compare the current charges to the proposed new charges.

Consistent with the GWD’s five-year financial plan, an 11 percent increase would be assessed on July 1 and a 9 percent increase on the rates would be evaluated on July 1 every year beginning in 2022 through 2024, according to district staff.

The district conducted a cost of service study to inform rates for regular and drought scenarios for the next five years. The previous study was conducted in 2015, which established proposed water rates for a five-year period through the 2019-20 fiscal year. 

GWD’s fiscal year spans from July 1 through June 30. 

Los Angeles-based Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc. conducted a water cost of service and rate design study to establish proposed water rates over a five-year period from the fiscal year 2020-21 to the fiscal year 2024-25.

More than 97.5 percent of GWD’s revenues are generated by water rates, according to the report.

“Annual projections of revenues, operations and maintenance expenses, debt service payments and capital expenditures through the 2024-25 fiscal year were developed with district staff,” the report’s authors wrote. “Raftelis projects with no rate increases over the five-year study period, the district will fully deplete its reserves by the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year and fail to meet its debt coverage requirement in all years through the 2024-25 fiscal year. This demonstrates a clear need for revenue adjustments (i.e. water rate revenue increases relative to the status quo).”

The GWD faces significant challenges related to aging infrastructure and has experienced fluctuations in water use because of the severe drought conditions through 2017, according to Raftelis.

The district’s infrastructure improvement plan identifies $348 million in capital needs and recommends funding the most necessary projects that would cost about $50 million over the next five years, according to GWD staff.

Raftelis’ report said there are key factors influencing the need for proposed revenue adjustments, including that water sales were significantly lower relative to pre-drought years, and in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the GWD collected $9.8 million in drought surcharge revenue through April 2019, which is when California’s Stage 3 drought declaration was rescinded.

Special Meeting

The Goleta Water District board will convene a public hearing by teleconference at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. During the remote meeting, the board members will receive public feedback on the proposed rate increases and charges.

The public can offer comment by sending an email or a letter.

Those who want to protest the proposed rate increases can mail a signed comment, including name and service address (or parcel number), to the Goleta Water District, P.O. Box 1212, Goleta, CA 93116, or email the comment to Comments also can be delivered to the Goleta Water District dropbox at 4699 Hollister Ave. in Goleta before the district’s consideration of the item on Tuesday. 

Faxed protests cannot be accepted, according to district staff.

There are 15,226 unique parcels served by the GWD, a staff report on the item states. Unless 7,614 valid protests are received, the Goleta Water District board is authorized to act on the proposed ordinance. 

Members of the public can listen to the meeting on the telephone by calling 844.854.2222 and entering access code 687369#. Anyone can call up to 15 minutes in advance or at any time during the meeting. 

There has been opposition from customers about the proposed water rates.

In a letter to the editor of Noozhawk, Goleta resident Ed Bookin, a retired civil engineer, said the increases are not inevitable, if enough customers exercise their right to protest. 

“Customers of Goleta Water District who didn’t pay much attention to their latest mail will be getting quite a surprise: monthly bills are planned to go up by about 20 percent on July 1,” Bookin wrote. “But the greater surprise, almost buried amidst the numbers in the notice, is that substantial increases will be made again each July through 2024, for a total increase of almost 75 percent above today’s rates.

“By then, a typical ‘moderate’ residential water user (8 units/mo.) will be paying $147 per month. The stated reason for the dramatic jump is simply ‘increasing costs associated with operating, maintaining, and repairing … the water system,’ but there is no mention of any effort to control costs, let alone reduce them.”

Scroll down to read the full staff report for the Goleta Water District special board meeting on Tuesday.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.