Woodlake residents have chance to protest rates

Woodlake moves forward with Prop 218 process, gives residents the opportunity to formally protest an increase to refuse rates


WOODLAKE – Residents in Woodlake should find in their mail the chance to protest an increase to their refuse rates.

Woodlake city staff accepted direction from the Woodlake City Council to go ahead with a Proposition 218 process during their Nov. 13 council meeting. And according to staff they sent out notices with residents’ water bills this month.

Like other utilities including sewer and water rates, the City is forced to give property owners the opportunity to keep their rates from going up, however the cost of providing the service is going up anyways. Currently rates are $22.25 per month and are projected to go up to $24.45 per month for residential and commercial customers starting in March 2019.

According to Woodlake’s Community Services Director Jason Waters, the increase in the utility is due to increase in the CPI, or consumer price index, that their refuse provider must account for.

“Like many cities, Woodlake contracts out their refuse services,” said Waters in an interview with the Sun-Gazette last month. “In our agreement with Mid Valley, they have what is essentially a cost of living increase, so over time, it would cost them more money to provide this service and then that charge is passed on to us.”

The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI rose 2.3 percent from September 2017 to September 2018, not seasonally adjusted. “We increase it by 3 percent to cover those increases. Because of the type of funds that they are, they will be used for providing that service.”

Waters says it has been about 2 or 3 years since the last time Woodlake had increased its rates on refuse services.

“The reason for the increase is because we didn’t charge any increases for a number of years, that’s why it’s a $2.20 jump. [Mid Valley] is making up for the past CPI they weren’t recovering from,” Waters added.

The city will be initiating the Proposition 218 process that allows ratepayers to protest the planned increase no less than 45 days prior to the public hearing set for Jan. 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. If the council approves the rate increase at the same meeting, the rate would go into effect on March 1, 2019.

“By law, anytime you increase a utility, like water or trash services, you have to allow residents to protest it,” said Waters.

Those who wish to protest the increase must submit a written protest addressed to the City Clerk in person or by mail to 350 N. Valencia, Woodlake CA 93286. Written protests must be received to the city clerk by the end of the hearing.

Woodlake’s last Prop 218 came when the City needed to increase water rates to pay off a $4 million project for water meters. A third of the project was funded by a United States Department of Agriculture grant, while the rest was funded by a USDA loan. The move was a fundamental shift away from the flat monthly rate residents were charged for water.

After the 45-day protest period and public hearing there were fewer than 100 formally lodged protests. The amount needed to stop the increase from taking effect is 50 percent plus one of Woodlake property owners.

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