Utilities rates may increase

City has plenty of water, Shoreline funds

City Council members were shocked to learn Tuesday that for the city government, saving water doesn't pay.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, it was revealed that the city has to pay for not using much water in a new contract with the SFPUC. On the bright side, Shoreline Fund property taxes are $5 million higher than anticipated, leaving a balance of nearly $40 million.

"With this SFPUC agreement we basically paid $367,000 because we didn't use enough water," said council member Laura Macias at the May 1 meeting. "We spent a lot of time talking to our residents about conservation and recycled water and at the end of the day it kind of backfired."

The San Francisco Public Utilities contract was renegotiated with the city two years ago, and is a 25-year agreement, said Public Works Director Mike Fuller. He noted that he was not involved in the negotiations, but noted that those who did wanted to make sure the city had plenty of water allocated -- and apparently paid a price for that guarantee.

Council members suggested that the city try and sell the water to someone else rather than pay, but Fuller said the city isn't allowed to do that in the contract.

"Couldn't we just put it in tankers and take it somewhere?" said Mayor Mike Kasperzak.

"I guess we could if we had a use for it," Fuller said.

"It just seems extraordinary to have that much water and have to pay for not using it," said council member Ronit Bryant. "I recall that there were cities who thought they were not getting enough water."

Utility rates to increase

Water, sewer and garbage rate increases are likely on the way, say city staff members, who are recommending an 8 percent increase to water rates, a 3 percent increase in garbage rates and a 5.5 percent increase in sewer rates to offset the city's increased costs for those services, which are all provided by outside agencies.

The water rate increases would pay for a rate increase of 11.4 percent from the SFPUC, from which the city receives most of its water, while the remainder comes from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is increasing rates by 7.9 percent for treated water and 9.3 percent for well water.

Shoreline Fund overflowing with cash

There seems to be no shortage of money in the city's unique Shoreline Fund, which appropriates property taxes in Google's neighborhood north of Highway 101.

Finance Director Patty Kong said that the fund will see $30.5 million this fiscal year while the city had budgeted revenues at only $25.5 million. Ostensibly due to Google's ongoing property buying spree, it leaves an extra $5 million for the fund which pays for maintenance and improvements to the area and Shoreline Park. The special tax district does not share the bulk of its revenue with the city's general fund, local public schools, or the county as it otherwise would.

The Shoreline Fund, which was created by special state legislation, is in its second year of a deal to share as much as $13.6 million with Mountain View's schools over three years. As part of that deal, the city must project its ongoing expenses for maintaining the Shoreline Park landfill, potential costs of sea level rise and new transportation systems in the area. City staff say those studies will finish next year.

Kong said $10 million from the fund would placed into a reserve for projects or land acquisition in the area, leaving the balance for the fund at $37.4 million.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Longtime MV Resident
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 2, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Great. Just what our household needs. More money going out with so much less coming in. I've lived in Mountain View my entire life (over 50 years). I've only gotten a 30 cent total raise an hour in 3 years with company I currently work for. This is after losing a decent paying job to outsourcing 5 years ago and now working for what I did 20 years ago (don't even bring home $1000/mo right now working full-time). 25% of my monthly take-home pay goes towards medical coverage just for myself. Meaning it takes 3 months pay a year just to cover my medical deductions. My spouse is well past retirement age and still working out of need. It's no wonder we're in the process right now of packing up and getting ready to sell and leave the area. We love Mountain View and the Bay Area, but sadly we just can't afford to live here anymore and reading something like this just confirms it even more.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Person
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 3, 2012 at 6:47 am

I agree. Up to an 8% raise in rates outpaces inflation and raises for the 99%. Why not subsidize Mountain View taxpayer utility rates with tax revenue or some of those Shoreline revenues? Oh, that's right, that money is reserved for pension liabilities of public workers.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Something is wrong with the supply/demand here -- if MV paid extra because we didn't use enough water (less demand), then why are prices going up?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sabrina
a resident of The Crossings
on May 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Blame the workers if you want, but this is all a result of the recession that we have now been in for 5 years. The economy did not crash because of pension funds, the economy crashed because of irresponsible Wall Street bankers and their ilk -- none of whom are being held accountable for the suffering they have caused for nearly all people nationwide. I don't know of any local governments that are faring well right now (pension fund or not), outside of Washington DC.

Anyway, it is weird that it costs more to use less water. Could we get a good explanation on why this is?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm

So tell me Sabrina, are you ok with public workers retiring one day and going back to work as public workers the next day?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 4, 2012 at 7:38 am

Ok.. I'm just going to throw this out there.

If we're going to have to pay extra money for not using enough water, how about they just turn a valve someplace and dump the water into the bay? Turn the sprinklers on in the parks.. let kids play in the fire hydrants.

Trust me, it's not that hard people. We have morons running the city.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr Advice
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Why not bottle the water and sell it like other bottled water and use the profits to lower utility bills. Our water is excellent right from the tap,in other locals it is cloudy and taste funny.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

Otto Maddox nailed it: start wasting water, in a big way.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Drip
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I can't afford to waste water even at the current prices, but I support all of you in your efforts...backyard hoses fixing the problem one by one and recharging the ground water as well.
I really think the city council needs a flush next election...non low flow.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm

There's a couple of things going on, when it comes to water:

1. Since Mountain View bought water in bulk, not unlike you shopping at Costco, it paid a lower unit price with the expectation that we may need that water for future growth. As regrettable as it is that the City ended up paying for water we didn't use, the alternative would have been worse: Not having enough water to support growing needs would have meant either drastic water rationing or buying water on the spot market, which would undoubtedly cost alot more than what we're paying now.

2. The general increase in water rates is due to many elements, including the maintenance and repairs needed for our water infrastructure, like Hetch Hetchy, and also because the demand for water is increasing. This increase is being seen by many neighboring cities, including Mountain View, since we all get our water from the same sources.

3. To put this all in perspective, relative to the rest of the country, we don't pay more than average for water: Boston being almost twice as high and Vegas being half as low.

Web Link

Trying to waste water in order to recoup costs seems a short-sighted thing to do. We should be constantly developing new ways to save water, as growth and climate change may increase the need for potable water, while decreasing the availability of it.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Developing ways to save water is what got us into this mess, that, and morons in the City Council. I agree, it's time for a flush. What kind of idiot would agree to a contract that says we have to pay for water that we can't resell if don't need it? Like someone else said, there are cities that aren't getting all the water they need, we should be able to sell it to them, and let SFPUC pocket the difference in price. Such stupidity, it'd depressing.

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