Water and sewer rates in Lathrop are officially going up.
On Monday the council voted unanimously to approve water and sewer increases that will raise the average bill for Lathrop residents almost 60 percent by the time all of the hikes are factored in.
And while the vote was delayed to allow for more time for consideration and to include newly sworn-in council member Mark Elliott, there was very little public opposition to the move that city staffers said was necessary after two years of not raising water or sewer rates – showing a model that if the system were to go on as currently laid out, the $5.8 million in general fund reserves stored at the end of last year would actually be $2.1 million in the red by 2019, and if continued further, would create a $27.4 million deficit by 2025.
So why now?
According to Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore, it was actually a variety of things that required to city to take action. It was spurred initially by a decline in revenue that happened when California mandated reductions in domestic water use across the board for all residents. Less usage means less revenue, and that doesn’t necessarily fare well for municipalities like Lathrop that have outstanding debts associated with their water and sewer systems.
The city is currently making a $600,000 annual payment to service a $10 million bond that was taken out to construct the arsenic removal plant located near the city’s corporation yard on Louise Avenue. Lathrop is also making annual payments on the debt incurred to bring Lathrop online with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s surface water treatment plant project that was intended to service the growing community.
The $5 million that was received when Lathrop sold a portion of those rights to Tracy recently went to pay off a remainder of that debt.
Out more than 5,500 customers that use the city’s existing water system, there were only 24 complaints that were received when the Proposition 218 protest period opened up – allowing each ratepayer the chance to lodge a formal complaint against the proposed hikes that could have halted them. Only 18 of those protest letters were deemed to be official, and while the number was not insignificant, Vice Mayor Steve Dresser – who was standing in an absent Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal – said that the real problem would really emerge if the city sat back and did nothing to appease those who were worried that the increase would be too much for residents to bear.
Water and sewer rates are set to increase in March by $8 for residents of East Lathrop and $11 for residents of West Lathrop. East Lathrop residents will pay $10 more for sewer and water each month in 2017 and 2018 while their western counterparts will pay $12 and $13 more, respectively. That number will go up to $12 a month more for eastern residents in 2019 and 2020, while residents west of I-5 will pay $13 more a month in 2019 and $11 more a month in 2010.
When compared to neighboring communities, Lathrop residents will face a larger increase in rates than Hughson (23.96 percent), Ceres (18.81 percent) and Turlock (40.55 percent) but far less than Riverbank (121 percent) and Escalon (149.35 percent.