Reasons to Oppose Fullerton’s Water Rate Hike

Tuesday night’s City Council agenda is set and among the many items for consideration by council members is a water rate increase.

The increase would raise water revenue by 7.8% but it is not clear how that increase would be spread among different rate classes. Some will feel the increase more than others. This cloud is just one of the many reasons I oppose this rate increase.

Other reasons include the hidden water tax, economic timing, city management’s long-standing philosophy on infrastructure, the likely law suits due to improper notice by the City, shortsighted conservation efforts, and the general feeling of distrust by consumers.

10% of every water bill gets diverted or skimmed from the water fund and transferred into the City’s General Fund. 80% of the General Fund goes to cover public safety employee benefits. Outside of City Hall only a handful of people know about this tax. In my opinion, it gives the appearance that the unions are embezzling public funds. The General Fund does not contribute any funds back into the water system. Removing this hidden tax would allow the water system to retain about $2.5-million for pipe replacement.

Fullerton residents and businesses are struggling to survive. The elderly and disabled have never had this magnitude of cuts in services and funding now on the table and being debated in Washington. There are other measures yet to be instituted which could provide a financial buffer for the next year or two. City management must exhaust all avenues before resorting to a rate hike in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

For decades, city management has turned a blind eye to the infrastructure. Unless the repairs or replacement was in a redevelopment district, the City would put off any work. Instead, the city sought to spend $6-million on moving a McDonalds 200 feet, $30-million* in bonds for housing (*will amount to more than $50-million when paid off), and more than $12-million to revamp the Lions Field athletic complex. Meanwhile, our water lines are failing, our roads are crumbling, our streetlights broken, and who knows what else is in disrepair. The proven ability of city officials, from council members to department heads, to go along with whatever hot new trend presented itself despite the obvious deficiencies in our infrastructure is unforgiveable. While some were getting bronze plaques with their names on it, the rest of us are left to foot the bill. Enough already!

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has indicated that the Proposition 218 rate increase notification received by some water customers last month does not comply with the requirements of the law. Fullerton’s notice is insufficient according to Timothy Bittle, Director of Legal affairs for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “[T]hey can’t tell anyone yet what the new amount of their fee will be. That’s not compliance with 218!” says Bittle.

A recent survey of 122 public agencies by the Sierra Club shows Fullerton’s water conservation efforts sadly on par with the infamous city of Bell. The survey gives Fullerton 8 points out of 20. Out of the 122 agencies surveyed, only 16 scored worse.

Finally, people have lost a great deal of trust in their government at all levels and why wouldn’t they lose trust once they realize the City has been charging them with a hidden tax that does not benefit the water system. Most people who do not deal with City Hall regularly get frustrated at the run around they receive. One person tells them to do one thing and someone else tells them to do something different. Many are simply discouraged by driving on Fullerton’s poorly maintained streets. Others, like me, have watched the same section of water line replaced three or four times in just 24 months.

For these reasons and more, I strongly oppose this water rate increase and believe that our city can and should do better to serve the public before considering any rate hikes.

9 Replies to “Reasons to Oppose Fullerton’s Water Rate Hike”

  1. Greg, let me get this straight: 10% of our water bill including the rate increase goes to the city’s general fund which pays for public employee pensions.

    So in essence Bankhead and McKinleys vote will help secure funding for their own pensions….that seems like a total conflict of interest to me.

  2. Yes, 10% of your water bill ($2.4-million in 200) currently goes directly into the General Fund, 80% of which covers salaries and benefits for public safety employees (mostly sworn personnel).

    The Water Rate Ad Hoc Committee has recommended that none of the 7.8% increase go into the General Fund. That recommendation may be ignored or adjusted based on the council members’ own preferences.

    The increase in water rates will add more than $150,000 to the General Fund to help offset the $8-million deficit that is supposed to be made up through employee contract negotiations.

  3. I found it difficult to believe that 80% of the General Fund goes to public safety compensation, but Greg showed me the budget and it’s true.

  4. I agree with your reasoning except for the need for more conservation. The notice from the City said that since we had all conserved so well, they lost revenue and t/4 had to raise rates! No good deed goes unpunished. The City needs to get its own house in order. They are supposed to provide police, fire, and infrastructure. The baseball upgrade, and all these feel good programs, are frills designed to cover up the big monster eating our budget–pensions and benefits.

    Fullerton needs to ally with other cities and force the MWD to curb its pensions and benefits, and then Fullerton can deal with its own pension problem. BTW I recently got notice from the Gas Co. that my rates are going up to fund cheaper gas for ‘poor’ people. Huh??? When does it stop?

  5. Great posting Greg:

    I continue to be amazed at the apathy demonstrated time and again by the Fullerton public. Until the council can justify and fully explain the transferring of 10% of the water rate money to the general fund, we must stand up and demand no water rate increase for the citizens of Fullerton.

    We must have a packed house of concerned citizens at the next council meeting to protest this rate increase.

    We have seen over and over again what we get when the public is apathetic to the actions of the council.

    Let us as a community stand up and say we have had enough. Council, either support your positions with facts and logic or get out of our way!

  6. Someone needs to stand up and make the City Council explain what the 10% in lieu fee has to do with providing water to the users in Fullerton, and why it is not just an actual utility tax.

    Here are the key questions to ask: do any City personnel do work for the Water Works that they do not charge directly to the discrete water fund? If so, how much? Is it anywhere near $2.5 million? Is it anything at all?

    The 10% should be stopped today. All of it. Forever.

  7. Is watah fuh fightin’ or fussin, Ah fuhget…or maybe ya’ ain’t supposed ta drink it on account’a whut fish do in it…

  8. will the city o fullerton also mention the well drilled at one end of Emery park that fronts onto Franklin Hills drive? You know the well dug by Raytheon to measure the level of its contamination of good ole fullerton’s aquifer that gives us life-sustaining water?

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