City Beat

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February 3, 2012
City utilities commission OKs water and sewer rate hikes

The city's Utilities Rates Advisory Commission has recommended raising water and sewer rates for the average bill by a combined total of $19 a month over the next three years.

By a 5-2 vote on Thursday, the commission approved a recommendation by city utilities officials to raise water rates by 10 percent each of the next three years and sewer rates by 16 percent, 15 percent and 14 percent over the next three years. The City Council has final approval over the rates and is scheduled to debate the matter on Feb. 28.

The new rates would go into effect July 1.

Utilities officials said the added revenue would help them issue more than $300 million in bonds to pay for upgrades to the city's aging water and sewer systems, including revamping a water treatment plant north of downtown and installing water meters.

Rate advisory commissioners had delayed approving the hikes last week and followed through with the recommendations with a couple of conditions.

The commission is requiring utilities officials to report back semi-annually to ensure that revenue generated by the rate increases is being used for the infrastructure projects and not to cover labor costs.

Commissioners also asked that 11 percent of the revenue from the rate hikes be used to help low-income families pay their bills. Under a voter-approved tax measure, 11 percent of the money from all utility bills goes into the general fund budget - which pays for police, fire and other basic services. Commissioners asked that money from the new rates that would have gone to the general fund go instead into the low-income program.

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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.

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