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Cerritos City Council Approves Water, Sewer Rate Increases

By Tammye McDuff

The Cerritos City Council conducted a public hearing at its regular meeting November 13 and approved the proposal to increase residential and commercial water and sewer customer rates over the next seven years.

The vote was unanimous 5-0.

The city contended that it was a 10% increase every year with rates doubling within that span, but the increases actually signify a 14.28% increase per year; 100% (doubling of the rates) divided by seven years equals 14.28%.

This would be the first increase since 2006.

In June of this year, the council voted 4-1 (with Councilman Barrows dissenting) to approve the proposal, however the city was legally required under proposition 218 to send notification of the potential increase to all residents, who would ultimately decide if the rate increase would go into effect.

Notification about the public hearing was sent out in bright yellow envelopes via United States Post Office mail.

The proposed increase would help to cover the cost of water, which has spiked approximately 70 percent in the last seven years. The rate adjustment would also help fund the repair of the City’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, which is approaching its 50-year life span.

According to a press release of September 26th, the hearing was to discuss the City’s proposal. Under the plan, an average resident’s water bill would increase approximately $3 per month the first year.

Residents were given the opportunity to respond to the notice. If the majority of residents oppose the increase, it would not be approved. There was a marked absence of residents at this Council meeting with only five residents submitting a formal protest in the public hearing.

Gayle Grossman, a 44-year resident addressed the Council shaming them on the material sent out saying, “a flyer was sent out regarding this increase right around election time. Many residents did not receive the information or assumed it was political garbage. What happens to those who have limited incomes? We do not need this increase.”

Longtime resident Jerry Jensen addressed the council over a month ago about the water and sewer issue. Jensen stated, “it is not a 10% increase, but a 14.28% increase per year. You have indicated that the rate increase will be for the next seven years!” Jensen commented he would like additional answers from the Council regarding the hidden agenda by stating that the bill is vague regarding rates after the seven year period. Jenson concluded his statement saying, “there are too many open ended items in this bill. Is there a specific project this increase will be designated for? You, the Council are doubling our rates!”

City Manager Art Gallucci responded stating “Under Prop 218 raising any property related fees must undergo a property protest. Cerritos contracts the refuse fees out and are not subject to Prop 218. Anything beyond a seven year period will be subject to another property protest.”

Councilman George Ray commented “We have not increased our rates for six or seven years. We are actually loosing over $1.9 million dollars. We are still in the process of dissolving the redevelopment agency and we need to retain a reserve. This measure is designed to take care of maintenance issues, helping to avoid any major water, sewer or pipe disasters. We need to see our revenues match our costs.”

Mayor Mark Pulido told residents, “valve replacements alone will cost the city $1.1 million dollars. No one likes to raise fees or taxes, but we need a clean and safe water system.”

The City Clerk reviewed 1,571 written protest forms, which represents less than half of the voting residents within in the City. A motion was made to adopt the resolution and was carried with a unanimous approval.

 

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