The Goleta West Sanitary District will be raising its sewer rates in August, the Board of Directors decided Tuesday night.

There hasn’t been an increase since 1994, and district leaders insist the boost is needed for upcoming capital projects, higher operating costs and making up reserve levels after the $16 million hit to help pay for a wastewater treatment plant upgrade.

If a majority of district customers — 50 percent plus one of the 6,000 people — had protested the increase, the board couldn’t do it. As of Tuesday, however, General Manager Mark Nation had received only 32 protest letters.

Three people spoke against the higher fees, with one man pointing out that most residences in Isla Vista are technically single-family homes — with lower sewer rates — but have large numbers of students living there “who use more water than anyone.”

Resident Richard Schneider had an issue with the process itself, since the district noticed customers that it was moving forward unless 3,000 people write protest letters.

“It’s like sneaking it through,” he said.

The district’s presentation said costs have increased 60 percent over 20 years, but customers are asked to make up a 70 percent increase in just six years, he said.

A representative for the University Business Center on Los Carneros Road said the rate increase will be impacting its tenants, which include the City of Goleta.

Since the board considered the protests and voted to move forward, there will be another public hearing Aug. 6 about placing increases on the county tax roll for the 2013-14 year.

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