Somerton holds hearing on proposed utility rate hikes
SOMERTON – Somerton residents will have a chance Tuesday to comment on a proposal to raise city water and sewer rates.
The city has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. at Somerton City Hall, 143 N. State Ave., to hear residents’ view on recommended hikes.
Based on a consultant’s study, the city is looking at a proposal to increase the base water rate for residences from $11.50 to $15.91 over a five-year period, and to raise the monthly sewer rate from $38.50 to $48.86 over the same period.
The increases are aimed at raising enough money through rates to cover the city’s full cost of water and sewer services. At present the utilities are subsidized from the city’s general fund.
Mayor Gerardo Anaya and city council members say they are hoping for a large turnout on Tuesday.
“It’s important that the community come to the hearing because they are going to see the situation with the water and sewer funds,” Anaya said. “The (proposed) adjustments to the rates is something that we are going to look at closely before making a decision. We know the impact it would have for all of the people.”
Revenue raised by the current water rates falls short of the city’s actual cost of providing water service by more than $195,000 annually, according to the study by Willdan consulting firm.
But apart from making water service financially self-sufficient, the rate increase would provide money toward an estimated $2.2 million in repair and maintenance work the city says must be performed on the water system.
Water and sewer rates charged Somerton businesses would also go up, under the consultant’s recommendations.
But Councilman Miguel Villalpando said the council will continue to look at other options to the recommended hikes.
“Our responsibility is to look at what are the real needs and not just the wishes of the administration,” he said. “... what remains to be seen is if those needs can be paid for with another type of funding.”
Although the council could vote as soon as Tuesday on the recommended hikes, Anaya has proposed that the council postpone a decision pending the hiring of a new city finance director, who, he said, could take a fresh look at the utility fund balances and who might have a different plan for eliminating the shortfall. Somerton has been without a finance director since October, when Ralph Villa was fired.
In any event, Anaya said, residents should attend the public hearing “so that they are well informed about why this is being done.
“The last thing we want is for people to be surprised. We are going to be transparent throughout the process.”
The last time the city increased its water and sewer rates was 2007.
CONSULTANT DAN JACKSON PRESENTS A STUDY to the Somerton City Council recommending water and sewer rate hikes.