The Valencia Water Company approved an increase in its rates at its Sept. 1 public hearing; however, the company proposed and approved a reduced increase in rate hike value.
The approved increase was reduced from its original proposal of 51.5 cents per 100 cubic feet, or ccf, to 41.2 cents per ccf, meaning the average increase of rates for a home paying $47.02 would now be around $53.43 instead of $55.56.
The adjustment surcharge for Valencia Water’s 31,000 customers will be effective Oct. 1.
Dan Masnada made the motion to reduce the rate hike and Valerie Pryor seconded it.
Valencia Water’s board unanimously approved the motion.
“The proposed increase is necessary and justified to continue providing reliable water service with adequate resources,” said Matthew Dickens, Valencia Water’s resource conservation manger, in the company’s opening presentation.
Valencia Water is one of three main water retailers in the Santa Clarita Valley. According to Dickens, Valencia Water experienced revenue shortfalls totaling approximately $5 million due to state-mandated water restrictions and customer water savings. This increase in water is to remedy this loss in revenue.
Tenants, customers and property owners were in opposition to the rate increase at the public hearing.
Sixteen people spoke against the increase at the hearing and 459 submitted written objections, or 1.45 percent of the company’s customers residing in Valencia.
“If you know you have to decrease the consumption by 25 percent, then you should know that you’re going to be losing 25 percent,” Rodolfo Saavedra said. “It’s called a budget.”
“Why don’t you do what every other household does: reduce your budget, cut down,” Lee Ann Schertz echoed.
Many in attendance called for Valencia Water to reduce the company’s personnel or have employees take pay cuts.
“Next time you need to look at all your costs; personnel costs included,” Clarke Lavine said.
Later on, Dickens said Valencia Water has reduced the number of staff over the years.
“Our staff to company ratio is the leanest in the valley,” he said. “Since the drought we have reduced the equivalent of 1.5 management positions.”
Carl Anderson asked one single, pointed question at the hearing.
“How many of you guys did not take pay cuts or pay bonuses? We’re not paying for it,” he said to a response of applause from the other attendees.
Other speakers voiced their concerns about Valencia Water’s connection to Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) and the in-between position of the company as neither private nor public.
“A water company is supposed to be private or public, but they’re kind of ‘fish nor foul,’” Cam Noltemeyer said.
Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE, said that to her, the most troubling issue is that three board members of Valencia Water are also CLWA employees.
Speakers also expressed their concerns about the rate increase encouraging customers to no longer save water.
“I feel like an unintended consequence is ‘go back and use your old water ways,’” Lavine said.
“The rate increases should be differentiated based on what tier you’re in,” Devin Spicher said. “You should be penalized if you’re wasting water.”
Valencia Water assured attendees at the end of its hearing that its rates will remain the lowest in the Santa Clarita Valley, despite the revenue surcharge.
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