The San Luis County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to move forward with a five-year plan to increase sewer rates in Los Osos.
“This is a horrible time to raise rates especially in a community that is not a wealthy community,” said District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson during the sometimes-heated exchange of the meeting. Gibson represents District 2, which includes Los Osos.
The rate increase was planned to start as on July 1, however, it has been delayed to 30 days after the Proclamation of Local emergency is lifted. That date is yet to be determined.
The proclamation is based around the current coronavirus pandemic stay at home order, which has had a huge economic impact locally and worldwide.
“The emergency is both a public health emergency, and in my mind, and economic emergency,” Gibson told Estero Bay News.
Residents had opportunity to protest the rate increase, but the required 50% needed fell short with about 18% of votes coming in, Gibson said.
The hike will see rates for a single-family home go up by $10.42 per month (about 6%) in the first year with future increases of 3% increase per year.
According to a staff report, in fiscal year 2020/21 (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) overall revenues are forecast at $6.06 million; operations and maintenance costs at $3.56M; Capital outlay at $268,550; and debt service at $2.2M.
“The costs are not going away,” said District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold, who cast the dissenting vote. “We are going to be in a dire situation financially here at the county.”
According to a County staff report, the sewer service charges were set in 2010 and based on projected operations and maintenance costs before the system was even built. The service charges began in earnest in fiscal year 2016/17 at the 2010 rates and haven’t been adjusted.
“Operations and maintenance costs have remained relatively stable over recent years,” reads the report, “but current revenues have not been able to cover system needs.”
The system hasn’t had as much flow as was anticipated, in part because water rates have been going up causing more people to cut usage to save money, and since sewer charges are based water usage, the revenues are falling short.
Due to press deadline, this is a short recap of what happened on April 21.