CALIFORNIA CITY — To keep California City looking green and beautiful in addition to saving money, the City Council approved a temporary acre-foot water rate change.
Public Works Director Jose Barragan proposed the rate change during a City Council meeting Tuesday because the City Staff believes the current rate structure does not accurately reflect the cost of service for entities that use large amounts of water at one location.
The Council unanimously approved the temporary change and for it to not exceed more than six months. City Staff is working with Quad Knopf, a civil engineering company, to extensively review water rates and have a water rate study completed the next few months.
“We’re in a tough situation and what we’re bringing forward here is a temporary remedy just to buy us some time until the water study is done,” Barragan said. “We’re just asking for some temporary relief for six months so that we can water our trees, our grass, our medians and our ballparks.”
California City charges $1,700 per acre-foot of water. The council approved the rate change to match what the City is currently paying Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency’s rate of $648 per acre-foot of water.
“To me, to do this on a temporary basis makes sense,” Councilmember Ronald Smith said. “When we get the study back and they say that it’s too low then we can fix it.”
The City is hoping to save an estimated $759,956 from the City General Fund by using $790,000 from the $2.2 million Water Department Fund.
Dropping the rate to match that of AVEK’s could potentially reduce the City’s General Fund water use from $1 million a year to maybe $600,000 a year according to Councilmember Nicholas Lessenevitch.
“We can charge AVEK’s rate now,” Lessenevitch said. “Any savings of water costs to the General Fund is what we need to be looking at.”
City Attorney Christian Bettenhausen addressed concerns to the Council the temporary rate change could lead to potential proportionality issues by reducing the rates of one category of ratepayer and not doing so for another ratepayer.
“Setting (the rate) as an AVEK number doesn’t really address the proportionality issue,” Bettenhausen said. “The question is, who are we designating that AVEK water for? That is something that needs to be included in a comprehensive study to really address.”
The rate change will allow commercial accounts, which have multiple water meters, to combine all water usage into one monthly bill. This will allow entities in the City to water its landscaping, trees, and grass.
“If we do not water our trees then we need to come up with a plan, and I can bring that forward, so we can start chopping down all the trees in our city,” Barragan said. “That’s going to be costly. It’s going to be expensive.”