City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

January 25, 2012
Utility rate hikes discussed in Sacramento to fund upgrades

Like many municipalities in the region, Sacramento is proposing to raise its utility rates this year. In the city's case, gradual hikes being proposed over the next three years would tack on $19 a month for most customers.

The city's Utilities Rate Advisory Commission will discuss the proposed rate increases tonight during a 5:30 p.m. hearing in the City Council Chambers, 915 I St. The City Council will eventually need to approve any rate hikes.

Revenue generated by the new rates would help fund needed upgrades to the city's aging water and sewer system. At current funding rates, the sewer system is on a 650-year replacement schedule and the water system a 400-year schedule; the city wants to replace those systems every 100 years.

Replacing that system would be a massive public works project, with an estimated price tag of $2.4 billion. That's six new downtown Kings arenas.

Utilities officials said the increases to water and sewer rates are also needed so the department can comply with new state and federal mandates, including those requiring water meters.

To pay for those upgrades, utilities officials are proposing three-year rate increases of 10 percent each year for water service, and 16 percent, 15 percent and 14 percent per year over the next three years for sewer service. Sewer rate increases will not apply to city residents on the Sacramento Area Sewer District system, which serves part of the city of Sacramento.

Signs that the city's infrastructure is failing are everywhere, officials said. Since December, officials have responded to 130 water main breaks or leaks.

Roughly 250 miles of pipe under city streets is a combined sewer and water system. Of that, 27 percent is at least a century old and more than two-thirds of the system was installed before World War II.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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