MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The Monterey One Water Board voted 6 to 4 to increase sewer rates by 120% in the next four years.
The sewer treatment provider raised monthly rates by an average of 16% in September 2020, and the proposal is expected to increase sewer rates for single-family residential homes from $24.55 to $54.45.
It's Over!— Kevin Dayton (@DaytonPubPolicy) June 8, 2021
Customers of Monterey One Water sewer agency in Monterey Peninsula & Salinas will pay the full proposed rate increase.
6 board members voted YES, 4 voted NO.
Weighted vote was 13 YES, 9 NO. pic.twitter.com/0MFBrZuJQH
On Friday, several organizations, including the Chambers of Commerce from multiple municipalities, staged a protest against the M1W Board's decision to increase sewer rates.
"They want to build reserves for lower interest rates and we understand that sort of thing. But all the businesses in the area are right now figuring out how to balance their budgets and recover," public policy analyst, Kevin Dayton said. "Monterey One Water needs to do the same thing to say, 'how do you consider the reality of the economic situation here and do this in a way that's not going to be an obstacle to the recovery?'"
The Chambers of Commerce in Monterey Peninsula, Pacific Grove and Salinas Valley, along with renters and business organizations, signed a letter to M1W Board requesting a more gradual increase and for the company to consider the economic impact the pandemic has had on renters and businesses.
"But they're still making their profits and then using this issue to exploit the renter's plight," said Esther Malkin, a representative for Monterey County Renters United. "It is not OK just because they're coming off a pandemic year that they didn't make the millions of dollars that they do every year. They're going to make that up. Renters don't have that opportunity."
In a PowerPoint presentation presented on Monday, M1W noted the increased rates will go towards wastewater or sewer services, and not water recycling services that handle our drinking water and crop irrigation.
The image below shows the rates at which M1W has been increasing since 1989. There was a steep 14-year period where the sewer rates remained the same. According to Director of External Affairs, Mike McCullough, while most organizations increase their rates by 3-5% annually, the stagnant period resulted in a lack of $290 million in revenue over the last 30 years.
"That's revenue that wasn't collected that we couldn't reinvest in the community," McCullough said. "Early on, everybody was enjoying the low rates and now we're trying to play a little bit of catchup to say we're not catching up all of that 290 million, but the infrastructure needs are growing and we need to do something so that we can address those in a timely manner."
McCullough provided a detailed flyer showing where the extra money will be spent, which includes upgrading pump stations from Pacific Grove to Moss Landing that lead to the treatment facility and replacing machines that are more than 25 years old.
As of July 1st, 2021, single-family residential homes will be paying $36.05 for their sewer treatment -- an $11.50 increase from previous months. According to their frequently asked page, 70% of their equipment is reaching the end of its life span. The increase is needed to upgrade and repair any of the existing machinery and "the delay could result in serious equipment failure, power loss, and sewer overflows that impact public and environmental health."