After the opening ceremonies were put to rest, the former Chairman for the UUT Oversight Committee, Dave Hinton, stepped up to the public podium to read some figures related to the water rate increases being flogged by City Hall. There has been much conversation about this in town, and many people are frankly quite upset that their water rates are not only going up, but apparently at a very stiff rate. And with little useful information coming out of either City Hall or from the City Council, rumors have begun to circulate about what this might mean, especially for that portion of the community living on fixed incomes and tight budgets.
If you missed Dave's brief moments at the podium, you can view his talk by clicking here.
What Dave Hinton did is what he always does when the figures don't look right. A CPA in his professional life, he sat down with his calculator and worked out the math. And he came up with what are figures that nobody working in an official capacity at City Hall has yet to share with us. Which is rather disturbing when you consider that they're asking people to turn over their money for reasons that remain for the most part unclear.
Here are some of the points Dave made:
Collections for UUT in '08/'09 came to $255,913. The rate was 8%.
Total of all combined water bills = $3,198,912
At the proposed 5 year 40% increase that comes to $4,478,477
Our current rate is 10%.
Increase in UUT $191,934 = $447,848 collected
This represents an increase for water over two years earlier of 75%
Assuming the UUT rate goes to 12% - $537,417 would be the amount collected
Increase over '08/'09 would be $281,541
Increase in UUT collected would be 110%
Assuming the rate goes to 12% the water increase would represent a 15% increase in collection for the entire UUT over the amount collected in '08/'09.
You see, one of the big problems with the water rate hike is that it isn't just a water rate hike. It is also at very large increase in our Utility User Tax rates as well. Making the whole thing a kind of double whammy. And nobody from the City felt the need to mention this. Rather we're being given a kind of bum's rush with arcane mailings and threats of losing our water service to ominous and unidentified disasters if we don't comply. You know, scare the kids stuff.
The appeal Dave Hinton made to the City Council was on the issue of trust. While the UUT increase voted in a few years back sunsets in 2014, the water rate hike apparently does not. And if people wake up to the fact that this isn't just a water rate hike, but also a backdoor tax hike as well, and very steep ones at that, they are going to feel burned. And not likely to trust the City in 2014 when they're told that they simply must vote the UUT rates back to where they are now.
Unlike the UUT, there is not a sunset for the water rate increase. What does the City plan to do with the extra water rate increase?
As to the water meter charge, residents are effectively getting double whacked. First they pay extra for the larger connection ostensibly because they use more water. But then the water rates are also graduated for higher usage.
What was the purpose of the consultant? Why couldn't someone in City government do the calculations and saved the fee?
Now if you take take Dave's math to its logical conclusion, we're talking nearly $6 million dollars over the course of the next 5 years. And if you go to the City of Sierra Madre website and read the literature there, you will see that our money will be matched with a Federal grant to the tune of an additional $10 million dollars. Which means that through the water rate increase, the backdoor tax hike on our UUT, plus that kind gift from the Feds (watch out for the attached strings!), we're approaching a figure of around $16 million dollars to repair some old pipes.
Which, unless these new pipes are made from platinum, raises some serious questions. As Dave asked, what does the city plan to do with the extra water revenues after the planned expenditures are completed?
To which I would add, what are those planned expenditures in the first place? Just exactly how many pipes, and holes to put them in, do you get for that kind of money?
The only conclusion I can draw is that this money is to be used for some fairly massive (for Sierra Madre) water infrastructure revamping. Something on a scale that would more than accommodate substantial new development here. What else could it be for? If the figure was, let's say, a couple of million bucks, then the pipe repair story being flogged by Bruce Inman and the rest of the downtown choir just might work. But $16 million dollars? Why so much? And why the burning need now?
Students of body language would have enjoyed watching the considerable buttock shifting exhibited by several figures at the City Council's moon shaped meeting table when MaryAnn MacGillivray expressed her wish to agendize the meaty topic of just how Prop 218 is being applied in this matter. And when she mentioned that the way Prop 218 is applied to a water rate hike is decidedly different from how it would be applied to a tax hike, well, the seat shifting took on a near disco intensity.
Keep those cards and letters coming. They're feeling you.