Dependable water service and sewage collection and treatment are among the most basic services delivered to a community. No one wants to turn on their faucet and see it run dry, or experience a sewer line break and loss of sewer service in their neighborhood.
These services are funded only from water and sewer rates, not from any other source such as City general funds or taxes. Every penny paid in water and sewer rates goes back into those systems, and none of those funds are used for any other purpose.
Unfortunately, there are significant, escalating costs involved with ensuring Redwood City's water and sewer infrastructures are in good working order. When the City's cost of providing those services goes up, the rates must be raised in order to fund those increasing costs.
That's what's been happening for the last few years - our costs to provide safe, reliable water and sewer services continue to increase. Consequently the City is in the position of in order to keep up. This year, the recommended increase is about $4 a month for water service, and about $5 a month for sewer service.
These difficult economic times are a struggle for many people, and we share our residents' anxiety about escalating monthly bills. It may be some consolation that even with these proposed increases, Redwood City's water and sewer rates will still be at or below average for Peninsula communities.
People count on dependable water and sewer service - but it's important to understand that there is a huge technical infrastructure behind the scenes that must be maintained in order to keep the water flowing and the sewer system operating.
Our water rates need to fund $10 million annually over the next 30 years for our community's share of the Hetch Hetchy pipeline seismic upgrade. That cost is reflected through significant increases in our wholesale cost of water. We're also funding $80 million over the next 20 years for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of Redwood City's drinking water system.
Sewer rates need to fund Redwood City's share to replace outdated facilities at the wastewater treatment plant - $200 million over the next 10 years, based on our community's portion of the plant's usage. Plus, the ongoing repair and replacement of the City's aging sewer infrastructure is estimated at $100 million over the next 10 years. Without annual rate increases, there would not be enough funding to carry out this program, putting parts of our sewer system at increased risk of failure.
These proposed increases are not something that's taken lightly. They're being proposed only after the most thoughtful consideration of how to structure them so that the impact to households and businesses is as moderate as possible; in fact we use a 'rate stabilization fund' for water rates in order to 'smooth out' the wide fluctuations in wholesale water rates.
The City Council will be considering this proposal at a public hearing on May 7, 2012. The community is invited to attend and be part of the discussion, and I encourage everyone to visit redwoodcity.org/water to learn more about this proposal.
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