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Households saving $120 a year
Manteca avoids water, sewer rate hikes thanks to belt tightening
Manteca gets treated surface water from a treatment plant operated by South San Joaquin Irrigation District. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The average Manteca household saved $120 in municipal water and sewer charges in 2011 thanks indirectly to the foreclosure meltdown.

They also will save another $120 in 2012.

The savings reflect two straight years that the Manteca City Council has been able to temporarily delay planned rate hikes thanks to reducing staff and lower construction costs for key pipeline replacement projects.

Original residential sewer rates were supposed to go up from $39.50 a month at the end of 2009 to $43.30 in 2010 but it was postponed until Jan. 1, 2012. That adopted increase was based on ongoing operations and maintenance where the biggest cost factors are labor, pipeline replacement, and electricity.

The move to reduce staffing as well as the compensation of existing city employees by roughly 20 percent on average was in response to a big retreat in property taxes caused by nearly a 60 percent drop in property values triggers by the foreclosure crisis. The city’s other big revenue source – sales tax – also fell as the country entered into a recession.

While water and sewer are enterprise funds supported by fees and not general taxes, city leadership extended its cost-cutting and efficiency efforts to all operations. They also needed to absorb losses triggered by people being unable to pay utility bills.

Tuesday’s decision basically extends a decision made a year ago to temporarily postpone an 8 percent increase in sewer rates and a 5 percent increase in water rates originally adopted for 2011.