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Proposed New Monthly Charge For Water Meters

Original post made by Joe Baldwin.. on May 10, 2007

Please help spread the word about the incredible proposal to charge a new monthly fee to every user of CPAU water. Annual cost would be from $60 to $4,604.04 (!!!)depending on the size of one's meter. The proposal would set a dangerous precedent for taxing long-existing devices in our infrastructure. We might well be taxed next year on our gas meters, then on our electricity meters, perhaps later on the streetlight nearest our home, church, or business.
As President of the Homeowners' Association of Waverley Park Condominiums, I know this would add $232.44/year to our costs.
As Treasurer of All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Palo Alto,
I can report that our existing utility bill is the second biggest expense we have, approaching $35,000/year. The meter tax would add another $3,590.04 to that figure, over $3,100 of it for a dormant 6" meter through which no drop of water has ever flowed. The City required it be installed in 1995 when we built our then new parish hall.
I urge everyone to read the April 23 letter from the city detailing this proposal. Call them at 650-329-2161 to determine the cost to you. Then write to Council to protest because "If written protests are filed by a majority of the affected customers, the applicable proposed rate increases will not be imposed."

Comments (16)

Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2007 at 3:45 am

The City is planning a monthly surcharge on water rates depending on the 'size of the meter'. Since we had no idea of the size, I asked the Utility Department. Our lot on Walter Hays is just about 6,000 sq. ft.. so it is the typical of lots in our area. Following is the answer from the city. This surcharge plus the other one adds up to to an additional $120.00 a year. Mary Carlstead

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Peck, Sandy"
Date: May 7, 2007 9:27:12 AM PDT
To:
Subject: Water meter

Dear Mary Carlstead,



Thank you for your inquire regarding your water meter size. Our records we show that your water meter #33587 was installed on March 2, 1993 and the meter size is 5/8. The proposed monthly customer charge for this meter is $5.00.



There are 3 possible locations where you can view the meter size:

1. The base of the meter (the base is what the meter sits on).

2. At the point where the City pipe connects to the meter.

3. At point where the meter connects to the house line.



If you have additional questions please contact us by e-mail or you can call me directly at 650-617-3100 ext 4204.



Thank you,

Sandy Peck

Utilities Customer Service Representative

City of Palo Alto







Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2007 at 6:21 am

Most utilities have a meter charge plus a use charge, they just don't always mention it. If you want to yell at someone, yell at Frisco for having milked Hetch Hetchy for political perks while neglecting upkeep. That is why we need to catch up now. This is what happens when government is not limited to minding the store.


Posted by Utility Customer, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 10, 2007 at 6:22 am

There will be several unexpected increases in our utility bill including the surcharge for our water meters if the new utility rates are approved by Council. The Utility Department's effort is to nickle and dime their Palo Alto customers to recoup the $21 Million they paid out to Enron. They will also be bolstering the City's finances on the backs of the utility users, which is all of us.




Posted by Fed Up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2007 at 10:26 am

As I blogged before (to Diana Diamond's column), it is time to sunset the utilities tax (which was supposed to be revisited in 10 years). Now we see other surreptitious ways to create income, supposedly under the guise of higher costs. Palo Alto likes to state that, with a municipal-owned utility, we have lower costs. Nonsense! If you compare our costs with Santa Clara's, we are way above them. Use costs per therm for gas. It is time for Palo Alto to stop deceiving its residents and give us a true savings.


Posted by Otto, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2007 at 10:30 am

Sell PAU. Going price that property would be in the neighborhood of $800M-$1B, maybe more. Take the money from that sale and invest (in safe securities and bonds) an amount sufficient to contribute the current average amount contributed to the General Fund by the utility. Use the rest of the money (probably several hundred million) to help pay for infrastructure (about $100M), and the remainder to drive a _steep_ discount solar program sufficient to get most Palo Altons to a place where the grid is paying them back for generating surplus electricity.


Posted by mn, a resident of Barron Park
on May 10, 2007 at 10:55 am

I think it outrageous that after inquiring of the utilities dept. for the size of your meter they send you instructions for figuring it out yourself!!! They must know the size since they plan on charging you for it. They should be required to at least inform you.


Posted by Bern Beecham, a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Below is the section in the April 17 staff report (CMR 203:07) that gives some background on the meter charge. You can see the full report at: Web Link
Bern

Customer Charge
Staff recommends the introduction of the monthly "Customer Charge" to collect some of the fixed customer costs not currently being recovered from low consumption users. This charge includes costs such as meter reading, billing and other administrative costs. A monthly "Meter Charge" was discontinued in July 2003. However, as sales volumes decline or fluctuate with weather patterns, the currently used "volumetric pricing" methodology results in uneven revenue streams. It also results in artificial and unfair subsidization of low volume water users. The monthly "Customer Charge" will achieve greater equity among customer classes and provides stability in recovering some of the fixed costs. A state survey of other water utilities, conducted by the California Municipal Utilities Association, indicates that most California water utilities have a fixed monthly meter or customer charge. The expected annual revenue which would be collected from the proposed monthly "Customer Charge" is approximately $1.6 million.

To avoid a sudden negative financial impact on the smaller water user, staff recommends that the "Customer Charge" be initially set at a level that does not fully collect all customer-associated fixed costs, but will increase over time to a fully allocated level. For example, a $5 monthly charge is proposed for most residential customers, which represents 48 percent of the fully allocated monthly customer costs based on the cost-of-service study of $10.40. For large customers, the monthly "Customer Charge" will be based on meter size, and be fully allocated among commercial customers effective July 1, 2007. The Customer Charge will range from $5 for the 5/8 inch meter to $383.67 for the 8 inch and 10 inch meters.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 10, 2007 at 6:56 pm

So Council Member Beecham...thank you for the information, but where do YOU as an elected official stand on this issue?!

You send quote a snippet of the staff report, without comment. It seems incumbent on an elected official to give a little of his or her opinion on a controversial issue which (witness the comments on this thread) this charge is.

So 1. Are you in support of this...or against...or do you just do whatever the staff recommends?

2. So the Utility Department proposes to collect another $1.6 million of our money with this fee. Shouldn't an offset of other fees or rates be considered so this change comes out revenue neutral for the city....or is this just another subterfuge money grab on the part of the Utility Department?

Just asking...


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Does the city council think these rate increases might possibly have an effect on how people vote on the many bond issues coming up in 2008?


Posted by dry, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 11, 2007 at 8:41 am

"It also results in artificial and unfair subsidization of low volume water users. The monthly "Customer Charge" will achieve greater equity among customer classes..."

Why is the city punishing the people who conserve water? As a citizen who tries to adhere to low water consumption so as to benefit the environment why should I have to pay more just because others want to use more water.

It seems to me that people who want to use as much water as they want should pay for that privilege and those that wish to conserve water should only pay for their fair share.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2007 at 9:11 am

I agree with dry

Since we use Hetch Hetchy as our source of water, we have been told by the powers that be at a state level to voluntarily reduce our water consumption to decrease the possible necessity of rationing later this year or next if we do not have a good wet winter next year. How can we possibly voluntarily reduce our consumption when we will in effect be giving high uses a financial edge. Lets charge the higher users more so that there will be more water for us all when we need it.


Posted by Davey, a resident of Professorville
on May 11, 2007 at 10:28 am

Dry and Resident are missing the point.

This has nothing to do with conservation, or with anythnig else but money. The city has been so profligate that despite the gusher of money flowing into its coffers every year, they can't repair the streets, can't keep criminals from robbing our local merchants, and have to ask for more money from increasingly skeptical residents.

The utility department has been a reliable source of under-the-radar funds for the city as described by Diana Diamond's recentl column on the phony accounting they use.

But no matter how much money they skim off the Utility Department, for them - as for all addicts - it's never enough. And so we have this latest $1.6 million tax in the form of a meter fee.

They'll be back for more soon.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2007 at 4:15 pm

If possible Frisco was even more profligate than Palo Alto, more cavalier about Hetch Hetchy maintenance. Palo Alto should join with other peninsula cities, especially Los Gatos, in wresting Hetch Hetchy away from Frisco.


Posted by Drought plant gardener, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 11, 2007 at 8:44 pm

So, Council plans to penalize those who cutback on our water usage by levying a $5.00 fee to read our water meters! Isn't this counter productive. California has a finite water supply which worsens during drought years, so all those conscientious homeowners who don't pour gallons of water on their lawns will get penalized.

Council, this sends the wrong message!!!


Posted by mn, a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2007 at 11:55 am

I called the utility dept. and they did tell me the size of my meter and the new charge amount. I also found out from the city council that in order to formally protest this charge, one cannot use email, but must submit a letter through the U.S. mail. What an old fashioned stance.


Posted by dry, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 13, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Yes I do understand that this is about more than just conservation of water. My complaint was that if they are going to start charging a fee to read the water meter then why state in their proposal that low volume water users are being unfairly subsidized. I will pay my fair share of what water I use but I do not think that I should have to pay a larger share just because some folks like to use more water than I.


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