Oakdale City Council members voted to move forward on Monday, Nov. 19, with a utility rate study very likely to raise water and sewer rates to help the revenue shortfall of the wastewater fund.
With only about a dozen in the audience and Councilman Tom Dunlop absent, the two-item agenda meeting lasted only 35 minutes with the majority of the meeting focused on the study.
Interim City Manager Stan Feathers reported that the study was the next step in “fixing” the 2009 rate increase that had not produced enough revenue for the city to defray costs.
Feathers advised the council that the rate study would meet the Proposition 218 mandate requiring rules for raising fees and taxes in the state. The study would also allow the city to enter into discussions with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which controls the wastewater plant loan to the city.
“We obviously want to meet our legal requirements with this enterprise,” said Feathers.
Part of the evaluation, according to Feathers, is to look at the rate structure and how it is charged to users throughout the city.
One of the main objectives is for a more understandable rate structure than how utility bills are based now. Currently the city uses an intricate formula based on usage through non-peak months to average the bill.
Feathers said that he expects rates to rise as a result of the study.
“This is what I want people to understand,” said Councilman Mike Brennan. “If you’re thinking, ‘my rates are going to go down,’ this isn’t going to happen.”
Kathy Morgan echoed Brennan’s statement that she wanted citizens to understand there would be a rate increase. She added that she wanted the billing to be equitable to everyone so that a senior citizen in a small apartment wasn’t paying the same as a large family in a four-bedroom home.
Mayor Pat Paul said that the original study was in 2009 and rate increases should have been implemented back then to cover the city. She asked if there would be consideration to facilities such as restaurants that had water recovery systems.
Feathers asked for community involvement with the study for issues such as that.
Oakdale resident Bill Bradford addressed the council stating he had been in his house for 12 years and had only received a $50 to $70 average bill during that time. He said his last bill was now $200 and asked what the city’s cash inflow was during the last billing period.
“It must have been a real windfall,” said Bradford.
Finance Director Albert Avila said he didn’t have the statistics but added that the last billing cycle was for the year’s warmest months.
Bradford, an outspoken critic of the city airport, showed the billing used for square footage airport billing rates, stating those were “behind the times” as well.
“If your (billing formula) systems are as antiquated and unreasonable as that,” said Bradford, “what am I to believe?”
The council voted to have Tuckfield and Associates of Newport Beach conduct the $28,500 study.
The council also discussed the procedure for the swearing in ceremony of the new council members and newly elected city clerk for the next meeting. The Dec. 3 meeting is expected to start an hour earlier, at 6 p.m. to allow for the swearing in ceremony followed by a celebratory reception to take place prior to the regular meeting starting at 7 p.m.