In order to provide ongoing funding for Sebastopol’s water and sewer system, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously approved an increase to water and sewer rates at its Jan. 7 meeting. A series of annual adjustments will begin this month, with additional increases following each July 1 until July 2023.
The average ratepayer’s bill is expected to increase by $3 or $4 per month, according to Mayor Patrick Slayter.
The proposed rates are based on a comprehensive rate study and financial plan done by Willdan Financial Services. (See their report at bit.ly/PreliminaryRate-Study-Report.)
“They looked at our capital improvement plan and looked at projects that are mapped out for the future, looked at the amount of water that is being sold and the amount of wastewater treatment that were paying for at the Santa Rosa plant. Taking all of those and other data points into consideration, they calculated what the new rates would be in order to make the systems sustainable,” Slayter said.
Sustainable in this case means that the city’s water and sewer services pay for themselves via ratepayers without having to dip into the general fund.
“We’ve got three parts of our city budget: the first is the general fund, the second is the water and the third is the wastewater. The water and the wastewater are called enterprise funds, and they run like businesses, where they have to, ideally, be self-supporting. It’s just like any other business — you need revenue to match your expenses — without having to tap the general fund for any shortcomings.”
Although the water and wastewater sections of the budget are still in the black, Slayter said, “The balance of those two funds has been in slow decline over the last couple of years, and so the need to adjust the rates was becoming more and more apparent.”
Despite the increase, Slayter said the amount that Sebastopol residents pay for water and wastewater treatment is on a par with other municipalities.
“It’s a modest increase,” he said, “but we’re still right in the middle of all the different municipalities within the county” in terms of what citizens pay for water and wastewater service.