Dinuba looks to raise water, sewer rates

(Kenny Goodman)

Dinuba City Council approves rate study recommending increased sewer and water rates for most customers starting Oct. 1

DINUBA – Unless more than half of the citizens say no, the monthly fixed rate for water in Dinuba will jump $3 while the sewer rate will increase more than $10.

At its July 25 meeting, Dinuba City Council approved a rate study that recommended increasing sewer and water rates for most customers starting Oct. 1.

According to a council staff report from George Avila, interim Public Works director, the increased rates are necessary to offset an annual $100,000 structural deficit. Revenues collected from the current water and sewer rates are insufficient to cover annual operation costs – $3.5 million for water and $4 million for sewer.

The proposed rate increases will also provide funding for various city projects. These include water and sewer main replacements on W. El Monte Way and sewer main replacements on Tulare, Alta and Euclid avenues and on Sierra Way.

The city provides water and sewer services to about 6,000 customers. The last rate increase for water occurred four years ago; for sewer, it was five years ago. According to the report, inflation increased 14.7% during this time. The report described water and sewer revenues as “stagnant.”

Avila said residents will receive notification of the proposed changes via a notice that will be included with their next utility bill. Willdan Financial Services prepared the rate study.

NEW WATER RATES

All water customers currently pay a fixed monthly rate of $12.09. If approved, beginning Oct. 1, the new monthly rate will increase to $15.09. According to a rate table included with the report, the monthly fixed rate will increase each year through 2027 – the report covers 2023 through 2027.

Volumetric rates – water consumption rates – for residential and commercial customers will also increase. Residential customers who use less than 9,000 gallons per month will see a slight reduction in their bills on Oct. 1, but the rate steadily increases each year after that.

Industrial customers currently pay a volumetric rate of $1.562 per 1,000 gallons used. These customers will see their bills drop to $1.282 on Oct. 1. The rate increases year after year; however, by 2027, these customers will still be paying less each month than they currently pay.

IS THIS A TYPO?

Residential customers will get a fright when they receive their sewer bills in October. Currently, residential customers pay a fixed monthly sewer rate of $33.70. Come October, the fixed rate jumps to $42.23 and steadily increases through 2027.

Commercial customers will see their fixed monthly rate cut by more than half in October, from the current $37.32 to $17.97. This drop off prompted Councilmember Linda Launer to ask, “Is this a typo?”

According to Avila, this revenue will be recaptured by an increase in the volumetric rate charged to commercial customers. The current rate is $3.732 per 1,000 gallons. Starting Oct. 1, commercial customers will pay $5.858 per 1,000 gallons, with the rate increasing each year.

LETTING THE PUBLIC HAVE ITS SAY

Proposition 218 mandates that cities inform the public of proposed rate increases. Accordingly, cities must conduct public hearings before any rate increases are approved. Pursuant to Prop 218, city council scheduled a hearing for Sept. 26.

According to Avila, if the city receives formal protests from more than half of Dinuba’s population, the council cannot approve the rate increases.

“If we receive over 3,000 formal written protests, then rates cannot be increased,” Avila said.

SEWER INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

In other business, the council voted to use 2023 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, when they become available, for a Sewer Infrastructure Improvement Project.

Avila informed the council that the State Department of Housing and Community Development will publish a Notice of Funding Available for CDBG funds in September. When the notice is published, Avila said the city will apply for the maximum amount – $3,250,000 – in January 2024.

The city can use CDBG funds for various eligible activities, including public service, housing programs, business assistance, and public infrastructure.

After a discussion about what city projects would best be served by the funds, Mayor Maribel Reynosa asked Avila his opinion.

“P Street,” Avila said. “The (road) crews are worried about P Street.”

According to the meeting agenda, the P Street Sewer Main Improvements Project involves replacing the existing 12, 18 and 24-inch sewer mains and installing a 36-inch sanitary sewer main to address the current capacity issues on P Street. Funds will also be used to install a 18-inch sanitary sewer main along El Monte Way from Tulare Avenue past Crawford Avenue.

NEW BATHROOMS FOR VUICH PARK

The council voted to use $600,000 in CDBG Program Income Funding for the Rose Ann Vuich Improvements Program.

The program involves installing new restrooms, completing a sister city commemorative area and a new picnic pavilion. Reynoso was clear on her priorities.

“Restrooms come before the pavilion,” she said. “The restrooms in that park are disgusting.”

Avila said the city will purchase prefabricated bathrooms that have a higher capacity than the current facilities.

In an example of state bureaucracy at work, the city must submit an application for the $600,000 it already has. The city will pay its grant consultant, Adams Ashby Group, $2,500 to prepare the grant application.

“So, we’re giving Adams Ashby $2,500 for money that is with us?” Councilmember Kuldip Thusu asked.

“It’s a complicated process,” replied Avila.

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