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Sewer, water rates going up by as much as $18 a month
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LATHROP – Residents can expect to see a monthly rate increase for their water and sewer rates starting in 2012.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council approved the recommendation of staff to increase rates but at a reduced percentage than what was originally proposed. It will raise the water rates on the east side of Lathrop from $46 to $49 monthly in 2012 and $52 monthly in 2013. Homes on the west side of town will see their rates increase from $37 a month to $40 a month in 2013 and $43 a -month in 2013.

Sewer rates will increase on the east side of Lathrop from $52 monthly currently to $56
a month in 2012 and $59 a month in 2013. Houses on the west side of town will see their rates increase from $48-a-month to $53 a month in 2012 and to $60 a month in 2013.

According to the report prepared for the council, part of what makes Lathrop’s water system different than those of neighboring communities is the fact that the city has more arsenic to remove than most cities and the number of customers to spread that cost out is much smaller.

While the ground water that comes from each of the five wells that supply residents has levels of arsenic that are higher than the current maximum containment levels, the amount is still within the old parameters of 70 parts-per-billion and will be taken care of with the $13 million arsenic project being funded by a loan from the State of California.

Lathrop currently has $4.3 million remaining in the water fund, but staff felt that from an operating budget perspective the current utility budgets are being operated at a “bare bones” level – leaving nothing for them to do short of suggesting a rate hike to meet maintenance and operating costs for the coming years.

Overall, water usage has decreased across the board over last year – leading some to speculate that foreclosures may have played a large role in the shortfalls – even though the number of people that the city has billed has increased during that time frame.

The underperforming expectations caused a $400,000 shortfall in the water fund at the end of the last fiscal year – something that staff is hoping that the rate increases will prevent as they prepare for lean financial times over the course of the next five years.

Conservation, as well as California’s chronic drought conditions, could have also played a factor in the decline in water usage.

The city also offers kits to homeowners that help prevent water waste from things like leaky faucets and running toilets – available for pickup at City Hall.

By taking action based on staff’s recommendation, the council avoided approving a $42,000 water study that was initially included as part of the rate increase agenda item set for the late-April meeting – the item that was continued until Monday, May 2.

The study, which was proposed to outline a handful of water-related models including projected through 2016, was not on Monday’s agenda.