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Sewer rate increase proposed for Los Osos as expenditures outpace revenues

Posted at 6:19 AM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 09:49:32-05

A recommendation of increased sewer service fees in Los Osos will be presented Tuesday morning to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in an effort to stop expenditures from outpacing revenues.

The Los Osos wastewater treatment facility currently treats on average 500,000 gallons of water per day, serving close to 5,600 residents.

The sewer service fee on the books today were approved back in 2010, before the new system went on line.

"We set rates 10 years ago before we built the waste water treatment plant, before we understood what water usage was going to be," SLO County Public Works Deputy Dir. Kate Ballantyne said. "Now we've been operating the system for a few years and we have an understanding of what it takes to run the cost, what the construction costs were and how much water people are using."

Because the rates remain the same and have not increased to account for inflation, current revenues cannot cover the system needs.

Utility managers are now proposing a rate increase that averages $10 per month in year one and $12 per month in year two.

"We're not able to cover our operational expenses so we've been dipping into our reserves to make that up," Ballantyne said. "That's not sustainable, so we need to raise rates so we can operate and maintain reserves for loans for the future, emergencies, we like to have a nice 6-month operational reserve."

The proposed rate increase will only be assessed to improved parcels.

The minimum service charge for properties without a water meter would be adjusted from 25 gallons per day to 100 gallons per day.

Officials say the increased revenue will ensure sufficient funds for necessary operations, system maintenance and repairs.

The added dollars would also go toward implementing projects and programs needed to provide sewer service safely and efficiently.

According to data provided by Public Works, revenues would begin to outpace expenditures by fiscal year 2021-2022 if the new rate is implemented.

The Tuesday hearing is just an introduction of the proposed increases. A public hearing is set for April 21 and, if it passes, the rate change would take effect July 1.