Over the Hill

Paso council still trying for rate hike

When my son, Mike, was learning to ride his first little bicycle, he, of course, fell. I said, “Don’t worry, after you fall 10 times you’ll know how to ride.”

So he kept trying. But I was wrong; it didn’t take him 10 falls.

Mike’s bike lesson came back to me this week after the Paso Robles City Council voted to try again to raise our water rates. This isn’t their 10th try, but they may still succeed.

Tuesday night the council listened to the newest rate proposal from the city staff and consultants. But then the council chose an alternative proposal.

The staff and consultants’ proposal included a fixed, base charge on every bill. Every household would be charged $10 per month no matter how much water they used. On top of that, every household would be charged for each billing-unit of water they used. (A billing-unit equals 748 gallons.)

The billing-unit charge would be $1.50 each, for the first five units per month, $1.90 each of the next 25 units and $2.40 each for anything above that. Those rates would increase over five years to $3.15, $4 and $5. The proposal also included higher rates for commercial and industrial users.

(Paso currently charges all customers an $18 fixed, base fee and a $1.32 unit charge.)

But when it came time to act Tuesday, the council bypassed the staff and consultants’ complicated proposal and favored an alternative called the Uniform Pricing Option. It has no fixed, base charge and just a single, unit rate for all customers. Each customer’s bill would depend entirely on how much water that customer used.

Under that plan the monthly rate for all customers would be $2.50 per unit. That rate would increase over five years to 4.40 per unit.

The report contained sample bills for customers using nine or 13 units per month. Each was cheaper than it would be under the city’s present rate or the staff and consultants’ proposal.

Councilman Fred Strong said customers using 20 units or more would get the high bills. He said he now uses just five units per month, and with the Uniform Pricing Option he’d still pay less in five years than he does now.

Councilman Nick Gilman smiled and said, “I don’t think we should approve this rate to save Fred money on his bill.” He added, “The uniform option is easiest to understand and justify.”

The council chose it unanimously. They will act Feb. 2, on adopting it and starting the Proposition 218 procedures for its final approval.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.