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Posted on Dec 7, 2015 in Kitchen Sink | 1 comment

Water Costs Set to Skyrocket: What’s Wrong at MMWD

Water Costs Set to Skyrocket: What’s Wrong at MMWD

The Marin Municipal Water District is proposing large increases to the cost of water in Marin. Fee increases to a single family residential customer will increase about 90% on January 1 with a second increase on May 1, PLUS there are increases in the rates based on your actual usage. And there could be future surcharges implemented to offset financial losses. The Board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, December 8 at 7:30 pm at MMWD Board Room, 220 Nellen Ave, Corte Madera.

Why the Increase?

MMWD has a budget shortfall, which they blame on the drought. Our community’s successful efforts to reduce water usage mean reduced revenue for MMWD. While 80% of their costs are fixed, only 17% of their revenue is fixed. (Fees and charges are generally fixed; rates based on water usage are not.)

Faced with this financial problem, the District hired a consultant to do a Cost of Service study, which proposes a five-year plan of increased Service Charges, a new Watershed Management Fee and increased rates for Tier 1 water usage. These proposed changes would increase the District’s fixed revenues to 28%.

At This Rate, Fees Alone Will Increase 240% by 2019

While the District says they are only incorporating the first two years of the five-year plan, you can see where it is going.

Proposed Bi-monthly Fees (does not include increased rates for water usage)

 Meter: 5/8″ Current   Effective 1/1/16  Effective 5/1/16  FY 2017/18  FY 2018/19  FY 2019/20
Service
Charge
 $21.53  $32.55  $33.85  $36.20  $38.75  $41.45
Watershed
Mgt Fee
 – – –  $8.45  $8.80  $9.35  $10.00 $10.65
 Total  $21.53  $41.00  $42.65 $45.55 $48.75 $52.10
 90% Increase!   240% Increase!

 

Higher Fees, New Fees, Higher Rates and Two Key Dates

There are three parts to the proposed increases and the increases will be effective on January 1 and May 1, 2016:

  1. A 51% increase in the bi-monthly fixed Service Charge from $21.53 to $32.55 on January 1 and to $33.85 on May 1 (based on standard 5/8″ residential meter size).
  2. A new bi-monthly fixed Watershed Management Fee $8.45 effective January 1 and jumping to $8.80 on May 1, 2016 (based on standard 5/8″ residential size).
  3. Adjustments to the tier rates (actual water usage) with Tier 1 rates increasing from $3.74 per CCF (748 gal) to $3.81 on January 1 and to $3.96 on May 1, 2016.

In addition, Drought Surcharges may be implemented if there are significant financial shortfalls due to greater water usage reductions than projected. And, if the water we buy from Sonoma County is more expensive than projected, there are additional surcharges that could be implemented.

Learn more (including rates for other meter sizes) at www.marinwater.org

How Much Will Your Water Bill Increase?

You can see how the rates will affect your bi-monthly bill by using the MMWD Bill Calculator, but just a head’s up – it is in Microsoft Excel so you’ll need that software. Not a very user-friendly approach.

We inserted our average seasonal water usage (all Tier 1) into the calculator and you can see the huge increase, without using one additional drop of water.
mmwd calculator

The Solution Should Involve Reducing Fixed Costs

These increases, while eye-popping, do nothing to address the core problem. The District has had to raise rates 10 times in 11 years because their fixed costs are too high. This just isn’t sustainable. There is a lot more to know about the District’s compensation and benefits packages and staffing levels, but let’s just point out a few things that caught our eye:

  • Board members are provided with health insurance. The annual cost is $70,000 and their payment responsibility is only 20%. If Board members need health care insurance, they can buy it themselves on Covered California. No organization should be paying for health care insurance for its non-employee board members.
  • Mid-Managers and Senior Managers have benefits that most of us could only dream of: fully-paid health insurance for the employee and one dependent; fully paid dental insurance for the employee and family members, including orthodontia; fully paid long term disability; and employer-provided vision. On top of paid vacation, they get 15 days of sick leave that accumulate and they can cash out up to 3 months unused accumulated leave on retirement. Management employees get 5 days of administrative leave, whatever that means. All of this is on top of pension benefits. If you are a senior manager hired before January 1, 2013, the District pays 5% of your 8% required contribution to the pension plan. Sweet.
  • And finally, a personal favorite: $2,500 annual allowance for education, training, or medical procedures that aren’t covered by insurance or to buy a computer or to put into the District’s deferred compensation plan. In other words, the District is giving each manager $2,500 to spend on a shopping list of items or to put into a tax-deferred savings account that will almost assuredly be paid on termination of employment if not before.
  • The District also has employees who are represented by SEIU whose compensation and benefits are negotiated.

Time is Running Out: Raise Your Voice

Filing a protest for this increase is difficult. You cannot email or fax your protest. MMWD needs to verify the person protesting is a bill-paying customer. A legal technicality means that renters are not allowed to weigh in (but you can still come to the hearing)!

The MMWD materials specify:

“Written protests may be submitted by U.S. Mail or in person to Marin Municipal Water District at 220 Nellen Ave., Corte Madera, CA 94925, or at the public hearing to be held on December 8, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. To be counted, all written protests must be received prior to the conclusion of the public comment portion of the public hearing. Please identify on the front of the envelope, whether mailed or submitted in person, Attn: Board Secretary.”

The District Board of Directors will hear public comments and consider the written protests (approx. 650 letters received so far) and then consider adopting the proposed fee and rate increases.

1 Comment

  1. Note! You must include your parcel number in your letter of protest, or it will not count! You can find your parcel number on your tax bill (but not on your water bill).

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