Friday, March 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Are Davis’ water rates fair or a social engineering fiasco? It’s your choice

By
From page A15 | February 10, 2013 |

By Bill Tournay

It is finally time for Davisites to rethink what the proposed water rate schedule represents. It is an established fact that most water districts charge users for the volume of water they use at the cost of providing it. It’s not rocket science — just common-sense fairness.

The rate structure for the surface water project does not meet this test. Embedded in the out-years is a questionable bit of social engineering, which posits that one month’s use fixes your user rates for a year. The implication is that an individual user is not capable of making his own economic decisions by either 1) shutting off the tap in high usage periods, 2) making landscaping changes or 3) willingly reaching for his checkbook.

Instead, the water authorities will compel you to pay higher-than-cost prices for a year’s water. At another level, it is an insult to Davisites that they cannot manage their own economic affairs, but instead must rely on a water purveyor to compel you to act the way it would prefer. Whatever happened to the concept of a fully informed, ratepaying citizen acting responsibly in his own self-interest?

A solution (per the request of op-ed writers Frank Loge and Matt Williams) is to adopt level billing to spread your costs — a well-established practice in PG&Es customer services. This would take the bite out of the high season usages by paying for it all year long.

Another puzzling suggestion in the article was the reference to “building two systems.” The suggestion is an interesting one. Will the new system be built for July loads or foolishly for December? If the former, then there is no question that it would be possible and prudent to let independent, free-thinking Davisites determine their own fate.

We have had environmental protection and bad-tasting water used as props for the surface water project. Now (in the op-ed), the shibboleth of Davis running dry is a new wrinkle — obviously a feeble exercise in fear-mongering. If the current wells are serving up water to Davis, how could the addition of thousands of acre-feet of surface water create a water scarcity?

The upcoming lawsuit, asserting violation of the principles of Proposition 218, is very serious and not to be taken lightly. A public agency cannot take a free ride by using a resource that it doesn’t account for. It is fiscally irresponsible. Using “free water” is appealing by taking it off-budget, but of at least questionable legality. The city of Davis general fund is not impacted by what is not accounted for. In addition, it is unfair to taxpayers and a violation of generally accepted accounting practices. The city has to give its citizens fair and accurate accounting of its actions.

Besides fairness, it is a settled proportionality principle in Prop. 218 that the public cannot be charged more than the cost of a service. Further, under certain circumstances, ratepayers cannot be charged in advance for services they haven’t received.

The city should be wary of its financial strategy for the surface water project before proceeding. It would be a huge contribution to transparency in government if there were a full public disclosure of the revenue stream that will finance the entire project. Gross cost allocations — like Woodland will pay amount A and Davis amount B — do not represent a revenue stream by source, nor does the apparent endless increase of user fees for water service.

What citizens need to know before they vote can be provided in a fairly simple spreadsheet. How much are user fees paying and for what part of the project? How much is the general fund paying and for what part of the project? How much are grants paying and for what part of the project? These should be aggregate, real numbers. Using typical household costs is a smokescreen when voters are responsible for financial approval at the project level. Answers to these questions would contribute to the comfort level of voters.

The California Legislative Analyst Office states: “Proposition 218 shifts most of this power over taxation from locally elected governing boards to residents and property owners. In order to fulfill this considerable responsibility, local residents and property owners will need greater information on local government finances and responsibilities.”

Right now, a no vote would seem to be a responsible one.

— Bill Tournay is a Davis resident.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Anti-gay initiative puts AG in a bind

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    County supervisors consider options for historic courthouse

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    State loosens sex offender residency restrictions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Lawyer disputes police’s hoax claim in California kidnapping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    Davis Flower Arrangers meet Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sign up for Camp Shakespeare

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Empower Yolo offers peer counselor training

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Sing along on April Fool’s Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Neighbors invited to adopt Willow Creek Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    .

    Forum

    Blame Reid for impasse

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

     
    Practice cancer prevention each day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Turnabout is fair play

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

    Be aware and be afraid

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Sports

    UCD men edge Hawaii on the court

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    UCD’s Hawkins, Harris to shoot at Final Four

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Home sweet home: Aggie women win a tennis match

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Devil boys grind out a net win at Franklin

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    DHS baseballers fall to Vintage in eight innings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Recent youth softball games feature big hitting

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Sacramento get its second straight win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Sharks get a key win over Detroit

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    UCD Student Fashion Association presents charity fashion show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    ‘Get Hard’ comes across as rather limp

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    ‘Deserted Destinations’ is April exhibit at Gallery 625

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Monticello announces April live-music shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Leonardo Tuchman’s work shows at UC Davis Craft Center Gallery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    Sacramento Youth Symphony holding open auditions

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    Preview Art Studio Tour participants’ work at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Smokey Brights to perform at Sophia’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Business

    Camry Hybrid takes a step forward

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Celebrate Rusty Jordan’s Life

    By Creator | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, March 27, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B4