Messenger readers have probably heard the FPUD will be hold a hearing at Memorial Hall to consider adopting new water rates on February 25th, 2020 at 7:00 pm. On November 13, 2019 we announced these new rates during a public Board meeting. In accordance with Propositions 218, we mailed Notices that described these proposed rates to every affected property owner.
Here’s how you can get information about these new rates: Attend one of two informational sessions about them at Memorial Hall. Dates are 7:00 pm on either Thursday, January 23 or Thursday, February 13. If you can’t make that, just call our office during business hours at (530) 367-2511 and talk to Customer Service.
Or, check our website at www.foresthillpud.com. There you can download the entire Rate Study, or download a small Excel spreadsheet from the home page that calculates example monthly bills based on your input of meter size and number of thousand gallons used. We’ve verified that it works on Windows PC (Excel), iPhone and iPad (Excel), and Android (Sheets). Also, the Notice that we sent to property owners includes the rate charts.
We want you to understand how the numbers work for you.
You can be assured these new rates are designed to fully comply with all California legal requirements, including Proposition 218. They’re also designed to meet requests from customers to place more emphasis on water usage, lower bills for folks who use less water, and reduce the monthly base fee. Many of our users may see lower annual water costs.
This new plan differs from previous rates by placing control of your costs for water more directly in your hands. It calculates your monthly usage by counting only the amount of water that actually flows through your meter – no more minimums. If you use less water in winter, your costs will be lower. Bills might increase in summer if you water your landscape or garden a lot. But your annual total won’t differ much from previous years if your usage pattern is about average.
Here’s how the proposed new rates differ from the old ones: We’ve used the current method of calculating water bills for a long time. It’s much like the way most folks today pay for cell phone service – a set price for the basic service. For a cell phone base rate per month, you get a quantity of minutes, text messages, and data. (Most plans let you use all you want.) And if you don’t talk much, or text much, the price doesn’t change. You’re mostly paying for the constant availability of that cell tower signal, all the time, day and night. Kind of like the FPUD water service. It’s always on, and always available, as much as you need.
Right now we charge a base monthly service rate, derived from meter size, that covers most of our fixed costs. That number also includes up to 10,000 gallons of water. We add a factor for additional thousand gallons used per month, aimed at covering variable costs. The law says we must allocate that base service charge proportionally to each customer. We do that in a very consistent manner. We currently charge the equivalent base rate for each single family residence, multiple family residence, or business served.
Placer County calls multiple family residences Equivalent Dwelling Units for zoning and voting purposes. So do we. It’s one way to set rates. This same method of charging for water service is used by many other water agencies in California. It’s been around for a long time. It complies with State of California laws.
This new plan uses a different way to charge for water service. It puts more emphasis on quantity consumed, like buying gasoline for your car, and less on a set monthly base rate. A meter tells you how much you take, and you pay a price per gallon, in addition to a lower base rate. The more you take, the more you pay, starting with the first gallon.
Many other water agencies use this other method. Either concept works, but each uses a different way to calculate monthly bills. Some folks think paying by the gallon is fairer. This plan might seem higher if one looks only at summer months. But if an entire year is added up, you may find your annual costs will be lower, but with more variation in monthly bill totals.
In the new plan, a residence is charged for each thousand-gallon increment in addition to the base service charge for their meter size. The first 5,000 gallons is charged at one rate, and usage over that is charged at a higher rate. If you have more than three Dwelling Units connected to one meter, or are a business, you would be charged as a non-residential user at one base charge according to meter size and one fixed rate for all usage.
Keeping all this compliant with State laws is complicated. We hired an experienced consulting firm to help design a new rate plan. They recommended a plan that charges for every gallon, with no minimums. They say that’s the latest way to do it.
This new rate plan is not intended to increase basic revenue to the FPUD. It’s designed to be “revenue neutral” except for projecting a conservative 3% increase for inflation in each of the next four years. It’s mainly a different way to calculate a water bill.
Between now and the evening of February 25, property owners, or tenants who pay their water bill directly to the FPUD, can present a Protest of these new rates to the FPUD if they wish. See the announcement notice for details. Briefly, all you need to do is write the words “Protest Rates” and your name and address, or property parcel number, on a piece of paper. Then date it and sign it, and get it to the FPUD office by mail (PO Box 266, Foresthill, CA 95631) or hand delivery. You can put it in the payment box if the office isn’t open.
Our Customer Support staff will number, and keep an accurate tally of, each and every protest received. An independent observer will count the total protests at the February 25 hearing. State laws say that if more than half the property owners who are customers submit a valid protest, the new rates will not go into effect and the old rates will continue.
So, come on out to our information meetings on January 23 or February 13 and learn all about water rates. And feel free to come to the hearing on February 25. You may find your bill will be lower under this new plan, especially if you use less water than average.