[KHTS] – Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials introduced a rate-hike proposal to pay for chloride treatment the Santa Clarita Valley, which they’re hoping to have approved by June, district officials said Wednesday.
At the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board meeting, district staffers pitched fee increases of approximately $17 per year over the next six years, said Dave Bruns, assistant head of financial management for the Sanitation Districts.
The district, which provides wastewater and solid waste management throughout Los Angeles County, is being mandated by the state to lower amount of chloride, or salt, in water flowing downstream to Ventura County from local treatment plants.
The cost of the new infrastructure necessary to remove the salt is expected to cost upward of $250 million, which is the reason behind the rate increase being discussed, Bruns said.
The approval process for the rate fees is expected to begin in May and end June 30, Bruns said, adding the proposal is in line with procedures mandated by Proposition 218.
There are two reasons for the gradual increase, Bruns said.
“The intent was always to ramp the rate up slowly,” Bruns said, adding the idea was to avoid a “sticker shock” bound to take place if the district waited until 2019 or 2020, when the proposed chloride-mitigation plan is expected to be operational.
Residents are expected to have an opportunity to sound off on the rate increase for the first time at the board meeting May 7, when it will be introduced. Notices will then be mailed out by May 15.
Officials are hoping to have the plan formalized by July 7.
The timing of the rate increases is being prompted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Bruns.
Sanitation District ratepayers have already been fined more than $200,000 because the district did not meet the RWQCB deadline for chloride management. In order to avoid more fines, the district has to have a plan in place, including a funding mechanism for the plan, by May 2015.
“We need to have these rates in place so we can get the concessions from the board,” said Basil Hewitt, senior engineer for the Sanitation Districts.
By collecting the fees earlier, the total rate increase attributable to the chloride cost would be $103 per year, as opposed to the $140 per year initially anticipated, Bruns said, while acknowledging the total cost of the plan would rise.
By collecting the money earlier, it makes the Sanitation Districts eligible for a plan that would be a more expensive option in the long run, however, the annual rate would be lower for ratepayers because it would be spread out for a longer time.
The effort is part of an attempt by the district to keep rates as low as possible for Santa Clarita Valley residents, officials said.
“It used to be a 20-year loan (program from the state),” Bruns said, “and now you can spread that over 30 years, meaning you’re paying a little bit more, but the cost per year is a little bit less.”