ESCONDIDO, Calif. — One week away from the city of Escondido voting on a potential double-digit water rate increase, council members received a presentation about the rate increase already decided on by San Diego County Water Authority.
“The board ultimately chose to go with a smoothing approach for the rate increases with an effective rate increase of 9.5% for calendar year 2024,” said Tish Berge, deputy general manager for SDCWA.
Berge explained the smoothing approach meant projected future increases wouldn’t be as steep. The county water authority cites several similar factors as the city for needing to raise the rate like inflation and maintaining infrastructure, but they also say they’ve lost money as a result of more frequent rainfall.
“The majority of our revenue comes the amount of water that we sell, and the model is very similar to many of our retail agencies, but it creates a unique pressure when there is conservation,” Berge said.
It was an argument that council member Michael Morasco questioned.
“Conservation should be a good thing right? In other words we have rain, so we’re not buying as much water, but it penalizes those were selling water, and therefore they have to make that up by increasing rates,” Morasco said.
According to the city’s memo about its own proposed rate increases, Escondido purchases about 75% of its water from the SDCWA and will need to cover the higher cost of imported water. A rate increase is considered annually by the county water authority.
“Knuckle down on everything you possibly can because the numbers that you’re talking about are outrageous and unsustainable,” Morasco said.
They’re numbers that will likely affect the council members upcoming decision next Wednesday as they vote on a proposed water rate increase for the city. The current proposed water rate increases include 8.5% on Jan. 1, 2024, followed by four annual increases of 9% on July 1 of each year from 2024 through 2027. Proposed wastewater revenue increases and recycled water revenue increases will be 9% on Jan. 1, 2024, followed by three annual increases of 7% on July 1 of each year from 2024 through 2026, and 5% on July 1, 2027.
Council has the ability to approve the maximum percentages all the way down to no increase at all.