ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Escondido residents are bracing themselves for the potential of a nearly 20% water rate increase in 2024 and several increases to follow.
“Everything is going up in price, so how do we shoulder this,” Sandra Otteson asked.
Otteson and other local community members attended a meeting Thursday evening to learn more about the rate proposal on the table and ask city staff questions.
City staff is proposing steady increases over the next five years. They say the money is needed to pay for more imported water and to maintain the city’s water infrastructure.
“Construction of a new Wohlford dam. That dam is 130 years old and so we need to replace that. That’s a very costly project,” said Escondido Deputy City Manager Christopher McKinney.
However, some residents remain critical of the steep hike.
“Increased the rates in 2012, increased rates in 2017 and where did that money go,” Otteson said.
Otteson had further questions about if the money just been set aside for the Lake Wohlford dam or if they are still raising money and how much.
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.
“Inflationary cost for treatment chemicals, the cost of labor, all of those things tend to drive the cost of producing and delivering water,” McKinney said.
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.
“I want a better understanding from the town. Is the money going towards debt for the pensions, it is it going towards the dam, like where is this money going to? We want to find out where that money is being spent,” Roxo said.
The rates being discussed are the maximum amount possible. City council has the power to lower the rate or the length of years of these proposed increases. However, city staff says that comes with tradeoffs like affecting the ability to complete projects.
The rate increase will be heard by city council on Oct. 18.