Grover Beach water bills will increase, but less than expected

Grover Beach City Hall.
Grover Beach City Hall. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Grover Beach passed a smaller water rate increase than anticipated at its meeting Monday, in response to customer protests that its proposed changes — two separate 25 percent increases this year, plus future escalations of about 6 percent per year — would be too harsh.

“I wonder if we need all of this increase right away?” Councilwoman Mariam Shah said during discussion. “I don’t want to do the entire increase if we can find a way not to.”

The Grover Beach City Council instead voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Debbie Peterson dissenting, to only increase the rates once by 25 percent on July 1. Any subsequent water rate increases would be required to go before the council for individual approval. (Peterson voted against the motion, saying she wanted more time to consider the new rate.)

$20 How much more the average Grover Beach customer will pay in their water bill following the rate increase July 1.

The new rate will keep the city’s water and wastewater bills among the lowest in the county.

The old rate structure would have increased bills by 25 percent on April 1, another 25 percent on Oct. 1, and annual increases of about 6 percent each year thereafter. It would have increased the average customers’ bimonthly water bills by approximately $40 this year, plus a $1 wastewater increase per bill.

City staff said the hike was necessary to pay for repairs and improvements to the city’s water system, and bolster the city’s dwindling water fund.

The council decided that increase would be too much for residents who have not had a significant rate increase in the past seven years.

“I would say this is not pleasant for any of us,” Mayor John Shoals said. “The fact that everyone has done an amazing job conserving water — 30 percent of the goals — you can only imagine the horror or the way we felt when this was brought up to us.”

With the decision, the council also did away with its tiered water rates, which charged customers higher rates based on how much water they used. City Manager Matt Bronson said a 2015 court ruling made it inadvisable for cities and water utilities to use tiered water rates unless the agency can prove that it costs more to provide the water to those higher users.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie