OC water district proposes increased rates despite large reductions in use

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- After making major cuts to their water usage, customers in the Yorba Linda Water District could soon see their monthly bills go up by an average of $25.

According to water officials, the monthly basic charge for average customers could go up more than 140 percent.

This comes after residents responded to the state's mandated 36 percent reduction on water usage. In June, customers in the district, which covers Placentia and Yorba Linda, reduced use by 38 percent and 43 percent in July.

"We've done this before and this is the style of this community to really respond," said Herb Trumpoldt, the owner of a brown lawn in Placentia.

But with people buying less water, the district expects more than a $9 million budget deficit. In order to keep paying the bills, the board wants to increase the cost of service.

"It hurts the business model tremendously by reducing the amount of revenue that we depend on through water sales," said Marc Marcantonio, general manager of the Yorba Linda Water District.

The board's proposal increases the fixed basic cost of service for the average customer by about $25 per month. The increase would raise about $5.7 million toward covering the deficit. The basic charge could increase 5 percent every year through 2020 at the board's discretion.

But not all customers are happy about the proposed increases.

Eddy Jackson, who believes the increases are 'excessive,' organized a community meeting asking the board to make more of their own cuts first.

"In a time of crisis, we think there needs to be shared sacrifice," Jackson said. "We don't think it's a time to increase compensation for employees."

The water district says a recent salary increase for some employees was part of long-term union negotiations. While many customers say they don't want to pay more, some understand the reasoning.

"From a matter of practicality, basic economics 101 tells you that the price tag has to go up," Trumpoldt said.

If more than 50 percent of parcel owners submit a written protest by Sept. 17, the proposed rate increase will fail. If it passes, it'll go into effect on Oct. 1. A public hearing will be held at the Yorba Linda Water District on Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at 1717 E. Miraloma Ave. in Placentia.
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