Member Russell Buckley: Say No to Water Rate Increase

Sunday's Union Tribune included an editorial about the San Diego Unified School District's request for a parcel tax. While most of the editorial is not of direct interest to those of us who live in La Mesa, its introductory sentences are:
"In 2009, alarmed by such abuses as the city of La Mesa distributing costly fliers that suggested a gang invasion loomed unless sales taxes were raised, the state Fair Political Practices Commission tightened rules meant to prevent government agencies from using taxpayer funds or public resources for political advocacy. The watchdog agency ordered that if a government spent $1,000 or more presenting information on a ballot measure, it had to be a fair and impartial presentation of the facts".
The reason I remind you of that part of our history is that we have a similar situation before us today. I refer to the HWD proposal to increase Water Rates by 8.8%. I wonder whether or not HWD has any intention of being fair and letting ratepayers know the specifics of the exorbitant pension program the rate increase will support. It is just about as excessive as the one that taxpayers in La Mesa paid for at the time 55% of us were persuaded to pass Proposition L.
HWD employees still pay nothing for their pensions. The Board of Directors has deemed it appropriate that ratepayers pay the employee portion of its cost- as well as the even larger employer portion. HWD employees are on a 2.5% at 55 plan (similar to the outlandish 3% at 60 plan our City employees enjoy). And the pensions are guaranteed by we rate payers/tax payers regardless of how poorly pension fund investments perform. On top of that, HWD employees receive Social Security. On top of that HWD provides a 457 and 401a retirement plan (with match). On top of that full medical is provided to retirees.
It is difficult for me to believe that a Board of Directors, elected to represent ratepayers, can require a rate increase while simultaneously using ratepayers money to pay for such an over the top pension program. But that is exactly what they are doing! I urge you to speak at the HWD rate increase hearing on August 18th and tell the Board to withdraw the requested increase in water rates and first reduce the HWD pension program to one more nearly in line with what most ratepayers enjoy.

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Comment by Craig S. Maxwell on July 14, 2010 at 3:30pm
Good work, Russell. Just goes to show that HWD'S lies of omission can be as dangerous to our wallets as the City of La Mesa's lies of commission. The lesson?--public agencies and officials cannot be relied upon to give honest accounts of themselves or their activities. Thanks again for shining the light on another dark corner of public spending mischief.

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