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Lathrop breaking five year string of rate hikes
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LATHROP – For the first time in five years Lathrop residents won’t be paying more for water or sewer.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council unanimously approved a measure that effectively ended the five-year rate increase cycle that they approved in 2008 after taking out a state revolving fund loan to cover the city’s 17 percent portion of the Manteca Regional wastewater treatment facility.

 According to City Manager Stephen Salvatore, the council had initially approved a three-year rate increase before coming back and approving the following two. Further extending it for another year would require an extensive set of hoops to jump through without much of a benefit. Growth over the course of the last year helped spread some of the cost to new residential customers and future construction will likely do the same in the next year.

Lathrop issued nearly 100 building permits last year and has already issued 130 this year.

But saving ratepayers from another hike was actually a culmination of several things done by staff to put the city in a better financial position.

During his portion of the State of the City speech, Salvatore talked about renegotiating existing sewer contracts and outstanding agreements from as far back as 13 years ago.

Adding changes to the way that the city operates its water system, he said, also played a part.

“We do more things off peak and have a more robust system with some of the improvements that we’ve made,” Salvatore said. “All of those things drive costs down and prevent us from having to raise rates.”

The city will now examine the system annually to determine whether a rate increase would be feasible before moving forward. Because of California’s Proposition 218, ratepayers would end up having to approve any hike in a special election-style event – something that would end up costing the city money.

Costs associated with such an undertaking, Salvatore said, also factored into the decision to not increase rates this year.