Only five days after a 45 percent increase in the City of Chino’s per-unit water rate went into effect, the city council hired a consultant to develop a “budget based water rate structure.”
“I really believe in budget based water rates,” council member Eunice Ulloa said before joining the unanimous vote to hire Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc. of Pasadena for $69,314 to design and implement such a billing system.
The job will take about a year, finance director Rob Burns told the council, and will require the consultant to gather data for every property in the Chino service area. Customers will then be billed on the basis of how many persons are in their household, the size of their parcel and how much of their parcel is hard surface and does not require watering, among other factors, Mr. Burns said.
Estimating a per-person allowance of 65 gallons per day, Mr. Burns said customers will pay the city’s lowest rate for water intended for indoor consumption. They will pay a higher rate, or tier, for water allotted for outdoor use, he said. Customers who exceed those allowances will pay a still higher rate, he added.
The rate structure is intended to promote efficient water use be affordable, fair and equitable and at the same time generate enough revenue to provide rate stability, the finance director said. The city plans to spend six months educating the ratepayers about the new system, he added.
Parcel data on every property in the city may be available at no cost from Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA), Mr. Burns said, but the city does not know when it will be ready. The city hopes to receive $227,000 in grants through SAWPA to offset the cost of developing and implementing the system, he said.
Raftelis was chosen without a bid procedure because the city considers the Pasadena consultant a “sole supplier,” Mr. Burns said. Raftelis is the consultant that developed the current rate structure, including the increase that took effect this month, and consequently has already gathered much of the information necessary to design the new rate system, he explained.
The council originally contracted Raftelis for $84,000 in February to conduct a five-year rate study. This month’s increase was a result of the consultant’s recommendation that the city boost rates enough to generate an additional 5 percent of revenue for the water fund each year to pay for capital projects and repairs.
Asked by councilman Glenn Duncan how the city will know when the number of persons in a household changes, Mr. Burns said the city’s new “smart” metering capability may help.
“With the new smart meters, we can tell when somebody takes a shower,” Mr. Burns said.
The council voted at its May 19 meeting to spend $3.5 million to install radio-read meters that broadcast data to city hall, eliminating the need for drive-by meter readers. That contract, to Aqua Metric Sales Co. of Riverside, also was awarded without a bid process because the city already owns 16,000 Aqua Metric meters and wants to stay with compatible equipment, Mr. Burns said.
The “smart” meters are one of the capital projects for which additional revenue is needed, Mr. Burns has said.
In addition to the water rate increase, a 20 percent increase in the city’s sewer charge took effect Oct. 1, along with a pass-through increase in the amount each customer pays Inland Empire Utilities Agency for wastewater treatment. Rates for trash collection and street sweeping also went up.
Mr. Burns has estimated the increases will add almost $15 to the average family’s monthly utility bill this year and another $8 effective July 1, 2016.