Flushing the toilet, taking a shower and washing your hands could soon cost more in the City of Paso Robles.
Two years ago, a specialized consultant was hired to study the city’s sewer rates. It was determined that due to the city’s operating costs combined with decreases in revenue, it was time for the city to raise its sewer rates. The last increase was nearly 5 years ago.
In February of this year, all city sewer customers were notified of the opportunity to protest the sewer rates in writing. This Tuesday is the community’s last opportunity to protest the proposed hike during a public hearing.
Sewer rates could increase by 56% over the next five years.
“I read that the rates are going to go up and I go, 'Oh no. Okay. There's a little more you know,’” said Ivan Huff of Paso Robles.
Roughly 10,346 city sewer customers could be affected by the hike, some of whom say they’re already paying enough.
“I already have a low-flow shower and what little laundry I do costs me a pretty penny every month,” said Judy Scholl of Paso Robles.
It would take a majority of the customers to protest the proposed rate increases.
“At this point, we've received about 250 written protests,” said Matt Thompson, City of Paso Robles Wastewater Resources Manager.
If enough people do not protest come Tuesday, rates will increase 24% on July 1 followed by 8% increases for the next four years after that.
The average customer pays $46 right now but by July 1 that would mean $58 and by 2025, they’d be shelling out $75 or $30 more.
Some say they’ll have to make changes.
“I can't grow anything. It costs me more to grow a tomato bush in water than it does to go buy a tomato,” Scholl said.
Others say it won’t affect their lifestyle too much.
“I try to conserve water. I don't have a front lawn. Things like that,” Huff said.
But for those on a fixed income or who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to be more of a struggle.
“I think it's a lot of money,” said Lue Baty of Paso Robles. “I think the percentage of the rate increase is a lot and I also think the timing right now when people are having so much problem, there's some people that can't pay their rent.”
Thompson says the city has upgraded the treatment plant twice since its last increase in 2016.
“Our costs have increased. During that same time, Templeton Community Services District has disconnected from the city's sewer system so the city has seen a decline in revenue,” Thompson explained.
The city says, however, the proposed increases will generate roughly $2 million to $4 million per year.
“The more you put it off, the more it’s going to cost down the road so if they could do it, do it right earlier then we're better off the next 20, 30 years,” Huff said.
By the end of the evening of Tuesday, we will learn if the sewer rates will increase.
The city council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. To watch, click here. To provide public comment, you can call this number: (805) 865-7276.
For more information on the proposed sewer rates click here.