In a post to the Bloomington MAC Facebook Group newly elected Board Member Gregory Young announced that the board had voted to reduce rate payers rates and rebate the money they saw as excessive. Here is his statement:
“I am pleased to introduce my new after meeting report on what actions were taken this evening. I will be doing this for every meeting I am at in the future. The big news from tonight’s meeting is that we voted unanimously to rescind the scheduled rate increases for 2016 and 2017. Having run to repeal these increases, I am so pleased to have fulfilled my promise to you to stop these increases. Additionally, we also voted unanimously to rebate back to you the increases from 2015. A big night for you the ratepayers of the district!”
According to Director Young we found out the following:
“The total amount to be refunded is ruffly $3 million.”
“The rebate will come in the form of a check that should be mailed out sometime after March 1st.”
“The exact amounts will vary as will the exact time people will receive it.”
We also asked about people who payed for water in West Valley Water District in 2015 and have moved if they would see a refund?
“In terms of those who may have moved, staff is working on addressing that situation. Obviously, most people who move don’t tell us where they go so that makes it difficult to provide the rebate to the appropriate party. The public affairs committee will be looking into the whole process in the coming months.”
As we watched the many City of Rialto rebate programs avoid looking to include people who paid and struggled avoid looking to repay everyone it is nice to see West Valley Water working to repay those who may have moved.
Moves like this bring up more questions because of the rules on raising water rates under prop 218. Prop 218 is used as a way to limit rate increases that are not needed to provide utility service. So why were the rate increases approved? Why were the necessary?
According to sources the Water District operates with a $25 million surplus in the bank but really only $15 million cushion for unknown expenses. If we had a major earthquake or if a Natural Gas well started spewing toxic gasses into the air driving people from their homes and businesses waiting on the Federal Government isn’t going to work in the short term. So having a buffer to work from is vital.
Previous board members looked at the Bond Rate Governance and the fact that homes were going empty at alarming rates during the housing crisis they decided that a rate increase was needed to make sure the District could continue to provide water services to its customers. Some on the inside at the time say that previous board members may have gone a little bit overboard but their overall intention was to make sure the Water District remains solvent.
Clearly this is a win for rate payers that paid some of the highest water rates in the area but what is unclear is where this leaves the district with a emergency fund in which to provide for residents water needs in the midst of a crisis.