ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Escondido City Council approved new water rate increases set to begin Jan. 1 and will increase each year for the next five years.
Residents had been outspoken about the possibility of a nearly 20% increase next year alone.
“It is by far the highest hike proposed over the past 12 years,” Sandra Otteson said.
The city’s utilities department had proposed the steep increases to maintain the city’s water infrastructure — and to pay for more imported water.
“We find ourselves grappling with escalating grocery prices, soaring gas, costs, elevated electricity, bills and soon-to-be higher water rates. Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion,” Matthew Roxo asked.
Escondido purchases about 75% of its water from the San Diego County Water Authority.
“I’m frustrated in particular with the county water authority and not putting their focus on more water storage,” Escondido Mayor Dane White said.
Ultimately somewhat lower rate increases were presented Wednesday evening in a five-year plan that still kept the city’s utilities department in good financial standing.
“We know if we lower them anymore in the long run it would cost the city more and it’s detrimental,” Councilmember Consuelo Martinez said.
Even councilmembers found the rate increase challenging to accept.
:It hurts us just like it hurts you,” Deputy Mayor Joe Garcia said.
In the end, city council voted 4-to-1 to approve the increases.
An 8% water rate increase is effective Jan. 1 2024, followed by a 7.5% increase in January of 2025 and 2026. A 6.5% increase kicks in January 2027 and 2028.
For wastewater and recycled water rates, an increase of 3.5% will begin Jan. 1, 2024. That will be followed by a 5% increase later in the year on July 1.
In July 2025, a 5% increase goes into effect, then 4% in July 2026 and 3% in July 2027.