Oxnard staff proposes 6 Wastewater rate increase scenarios

By George Miller

Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna released 6 proposed wastewater increase scenarios to the Utility Ratepayers Advisory Panel (URAP) on Monday 2-13-17.  The City (City management, Public Works and Finance) has been working on these since last fall, but the rate-setting process went into high gear this year. The Council selected the current Panel in January, which has been meeting weekly to absorb and discuss voluminous information supplied by City staff in writing and delivered orally, including answering questions.

Read the letter outlining these: URAP Scenarios Memo

Oxnard Wastewater Division Manager Ng Thien (blue jacket) has been conducting facility tours for residents, Panel members, media. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us, 2-9-17

Resident pushback on rates has resulted in some modifications to last year’s staff proposal, but not much rate relief, except for the bare bones Scenario 4- and even that assumes that last year’s 35% increase will remain in place, as well as the disputed infrastructure fees (except #4). This years’s scheduled 10% increase was deferred by the Council, due to legal uncertainties and to wait for updated rate-setting recommendations.

The scenarios incorporate different ideas in capital improvement plans, which range from $64 million  to $122 million; different rates of reserve replenishment to deal with bond covenants and emergencies; and different levels of taking on new debt. While they don’t incorporate all possible permutations of these variables, a good sampling is provided,

All scenarios except #assume that the 35% increase now in place will be upheld by the City prevailing in litigation to stop the Measure M rate rescission initiative. The scenarios would have rate increases ranging from a total of $15.93/mo over 5 years, with a 36.64% total increase, to a $19.01/mo increase over 5 years  for a total of 45.54%. Aaron Starr said this is about 97% compounded, with last year’s 35% increase factored in.

The City says that these scenarios could increase a typical residential monthly bill from a current amount of $41.77  up to a range of $48.60 to $60.78 over a five year period. They claim that this is about in the middle of other city rates within Ventura County.

Osuna’s letter lays all this out in more detail. clearly and concisely.

These scenarios should be the major topic of discussion at the upcoming  meeting tomorrow, 2-15-17. We believe that the panel may be asked to recommend one of the scenarios to City Council, but the agenda does not specifically call for that.  It is possible that the Panel could dispute certain items and ask for revisions or even a new scenario. Per Ms. Osuna this morning: “Not sure if the URAP will make a decision on Wednesday. I hope so. If not, we have time to meet one more time and still hit the July 1 implementation schedule.”


Here is the AGENDA for the upcoming 2-15-17 URAP meeting.  Major topics:

PRESENTATIONS– 1. SUBJECT: Legality of the Infrastructure Use Fee;  2. SUBJECT: Respond to questions by URAP members from the prior URAP meetings and emails;  3. SUBJECT: Discussion of a Ratepayers Assistance Program;  4. SUBJECT: Presentation of the Wastewater Utility Rate Options and possible recommendation to City Council of one or more wastewater rate options

George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard

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Eileen M Tracy

As a regional wastewater user, I would question the reserve policy because if it’s more than 2 months, it needs to be adjusted. I also believe that current ratepayers should not be held responsible for future expansion to accommodate growth. That expense should be covered by the developers. I also don’t think current ratepayers should pay for costs for the GREAT facility. This cost should be born by the farmers and city properties that benefit from the water. I certainly do not think that current ratepayers should be requested to fund the Taj Mahal of wastewater treatment plants. It took the current council many years to avoid their maintenance responsibilities. So I think future expansion should be funded in the long term. Don’t let your city council get away with this, please