YUCCA VALLEY — The price of water in Yucca Valley may go up; the Hi-Desert Water District directors are scheduled to review the first rate increase since 2011 at their board meeting on Jan. 22.
The water district hosted a community meeting Thursday to discuss a possible rate increase that, if passed, would start on Feb. 1. The meeting, which the district office said was publicized through mailed letters in early December, brought a crowd of about 25 people to the boardroom.
Hi-Desert Water District Communications Officer Jennifer Poland said the rates must be raised because the district is facing higher operating expenses and is paying more for imported water, treatment, energy, meter service and administrative costs. The current revenue is not enough to meet the district’s financial obligations, Poland said.
She also said the increase would help create adequate cash reserves for emergencies.
The district is proposing a 3 percent increase to customers’ monthly fixed charge. It is also proposing a restructuring of tiered rates, moving from four tiers to three based on water use.
“Reducing from four tiers to three tiers simplifies our billing process,” Poland said. “High water users will see a slight increase in their bills.”
The proposed monthly fixed charge would also change on Feb. 1 but most customers will still see a slight savings, because a fee for the Mojave Water pipeline was paid off and removed from customers’ bills in August.
For example, a household with a 5/8ths-inch meter was paying a fixed rate of $23.30 before August. They are currently paying $19.30 because the $4 fee was dropped. Starting Feb. 1 they would pay $20.75.
This Feb. 1 change was initially scheduled to take place in July 2019 but was postponed. After the fixed rates are changed in February, customers will see a 3 percent increase every July 1 until 2023, if the rate increase passes. This would mean that the fixed rate for the household with a 5/8ths-inch meter would increase to $23.37 in July 2020, increase to $22.01 in July 2021, increase to $22.67 in July 2022 and increase to $23.35 in July 2023.
“It’s going to be basically what you had before the decrease,” said customer service manager Cherri Nutter.
One customer in the audience was concerned that the district wants to raise rates by 3 percent when the national inflation rate is about 2.1 percent.
Project manager Steve Gagnon from Raftelis, the company that conducted the water rate study and suggested the proposed increases, said 3 percent allows for wiggle room since the national inflation rate could change next year.
Poland said if something does change and the district does not need the additional money, the board has the power to stop the annual rate increase.
“The last time we had a rate increase like this it was stopped in the last year and that (final) rate increase never happened,” she said. “The board reviews it every year and they can do that.”
The directors will vote on the rate increase Jan. 22. They will hold a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. to allow customers to speak out on the proposal and will accept letters for and against the increase until the meeting. For information, call Poland at (760) 228-6267.
To calculate what your rate increase would, be visit https://www.hdwd.com/314/Proposed-New-Rates.