The city council just recently approved a rate increase for trash, water, and wastewater and we voted 5-0 to approve. I want to explain why I voted yes because I know that many are upset with the increase. It would have been so easy to vote no, because who wants a rate increase? I don’t want a colonoscopy. I don’t want to pay for home or auto insurance, but these are things I “need” to do to steward my health and protect my assets. So it is with our utilities.
Increased costs occur around every area of our life - food, prescriptions, fuel, labor. Utilities are no exception. To me the question was never do we “want” a rate increase, but do we “need” a rate increase. If we don’t increase our rates what happens to our level of service and infrastructure? There are utility districts and cities who have kept their rates below the actual cost of service and their infrastructures are now failing. They have left a disaster for the next generation, and I see that as failed stewardship. I decided early on, before I was elected, that I would do what was right, not what was popular. Rate increases are right. If you do not pay for what you use, you are pushing your costs on to someone else. Public utilities are just that. They are public. That means we own them. And when you own something you are responsible to steward it.
Public Utilities are billed and paid for through the Enterprise Fund, which is completely separate from the General Fund. When you pay your utilities you are paying for the actual cost for that service. In other words, monies from the General Fund can not be used to subsidize your water or power bill and the monies collected for these services can not be used to pay for General Fund expenses like police and fire. If we don’t each pay for our utility use, what we’re really asking is to have our neighbors pay it, and that is neither ethical or fair. I’ve heard some say the “City” should pay for the increases. The City is me and you and our neighbors. There is no other city we can bill.
Are the rates necessary and are they reflective of actual need? That was my primary question. Did you know that there was a public advisory group that met 6 times to answer those questions? These rate increases were made after reviewing detailed data and with input from your peers. These seven individuals, several of whom I know to be rate increase adverse, came to the conclusion that these rates increases were necessary to preserve our utilities. Every year we have to replace pipes, valves, trash cans, trash trucks, etc. These costs are not static. There will always be rate increases. That is the nature of inflation and reflects the real world around us. To expect otherwise is unrealistic.
I have easily spent 40 plus hours and have 10 pages of notes from my conversations and questions with our Director of Public Works, Brian Crane. I know that rate increase are painful, and I wanted to be sure that we were keeping these increases as low as possible without compromising our infrastructure. I can tell you in all honesty, that we could not have someone more ethical and concerned for our citizens and the quality of our infrastructure than Brian Crane.
Could you live somewhere else cheaper? I’m sure you could. You could live out in the county and put in your own well, manage your own septic tank, take your trash to the dump. But how many of us want to do that? If we want the convenience of having our trash picked up weekly, clean water, properly treated wastewater, we have to pay for it. Are we paying a fair and reasonable rate? Absolutely, and I want to keep it that way. From the graph below you can see our rates are $11.46/month lower than average for comparable cities, even with the increase.
We can gripe, but the reality is that utility rates in Redding are conservative, considering we have infrastructure spread out over 60 square miles. Over the next couple of weeks I will post info on each utility, breaking down the increases for those of you who were not able to attend the 3 public presentations. Notices about those public hearings were mailed to you with your utility bill. Let's talk trash next time!