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LA MESA -- We had a wet winter. Local residents continue to conserve water at a great rate. And water rates are headed up again.
The Helix Water District Board heard the rate study report Wednesday which included a recommendation of a 5.9 percent water rate increase for the 2011/12 fiscal year. That will mean an increase of about $6.46 more on an average residential bi-monthly water bill. (You can estimate your own water bill here.)
Water district staff said the recommended increase would have been higher without the wet winter, which has increased the local water supply and reduced the amount the district must import. However, the district continues to pay more for the vast majority of its water which is imported. Rates for imported water are up 16.5 percent and are expected to rise 12.2 percent in 2012, 8.2 percent in 2013, 8.4 percent in 2014 and 7.8 percent in 2015.
While the increasing price and rates continue to inspire conservation, the fixed costs of operating the distribution system require rates, which are linked to consumption, rise to generate the revenue needed to cover the fixed costs.
The board meets again Thursday at 9 a.m. to review the overall budget which currently projects no increase for workers' pay, but a 14 percent increase in benefits. The increasing cost of medical insurance and increases in retirement payments required by the state pension system are also putting pressure on the budget. Public hearings will be set on the water rates in the coming weeks. Wednesday, La Mesa resident Wade Stone criticized the board for maintaining a three-tiered system that charges high rates to heavier water users. Much of the conservation these days, he said, is being done by larger property owners who are continuing to be punished with the highest rates.