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MIJ: Novato water rates rise 11%
Friday 20 Jun 2008, 04:13
Filed under: Marin, Novato

Sierra Filucci
Article Launched: 06/17/2008 11:59:22 PM PDT

Novato residents will feel a slow drain on bank accounts come July 1 as North Marin Water District officials voted unanimously Tuesday to hike rates 11 percent.

“No one likes a rate increase, that’s for certain, but that’s where we are,” said Chris DeGabriele, general manager of the water district.

Most users will pay an additional $41 per year.

The average water bill will rise from $382 annually to $423, the lowest rate in the 17 neighboring water districts, according to district officials. The rate hike will affect all residential and commercial Novato customers, or 95 percent of the water district’s business.

A board meeting July 1 in Point Reyes Station will determine whether the district’s West Marin customers will face a similar rate hike from the district. The district, which serves more than 60,000 people, also provides water for residents in the Point Reyes Station, Olema and Inverness Park areas.

One Novato resident, George Allen, objected to the rate hike, saying he was conserving as much water as he could to save money. After the meeting he said, “I don’t want to lose my landscaping. I enjoy my yard.”

The Novato rate increase will draw $850,000 in additional funds, which will go primarily toward repair and replacement of existing facilities, DeGabriele said.

The most expensive improvement project – a 4 million gallon water tank on Palmer Drive in Novato – is already under way and will cost $2.85 million to complete, according to the district
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budget. The new tank will “improve pressure and reliability of the system in that area,” said David Bentley, auditor-controller for the district.

New water lines, more expensive water treatment chemicals, and a 6 percent hike in the cost of water from Sonoma County, where the district gets 80 percent of its water, are some other reasons for the increase.

The water district’s 58 full-time employees will receive a 4 percent cost-of-living pay raise, bringing total salary expenses to $3 million. The district expects a 10 percent, or $62,000, increase in group health insurance rates.

Even with the rate increase, the district’s $18 million budget includes a projected $5.2 million deficit in the 2008-09 fiscal year because of the improvement projects.

“Some years you plan to spend more,” DeGabriele said. “We hope to ultimately recover that deficit.”

The last across-the-board increase was in 2006, when rates were increased 2 percent.

In 2007, the water district approved a rate increase that affected about 25 percent of its residential customers who are the largest water users. The rate hike targeted 5,800 homes that used more than 37,000 gallons of water every two months.

In April, the Marin Municipal Water District’s board of directors voted to raise water rates for 190,000 customers between Sausalito and San Rafael. The average water bill rose from $36.40 to $39.94 a month, a 9.7 percent increase.

Contact Sierra Filucci via e-mail at sfilucci@marinij.com

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