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Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: This one’s simple, fair, straightforward

By From page A2 | December 11, 2012

WAC ATTACK … after months and months of work, one member of the Water Advisory Committee came up with a workable water rate structure that is fair to all users … as an added bonus, it’s simple, easy to understand and doesn’t pit one Davis family against another … plus, the rates themselves, dramatically higher than what we pay now, will without a doubt encourage and increase conservation …

The member in question is former Mayor Bill Kopper, who came up with the novel idea of treating all ratepayers of this town exactly the same by charging them the exact same amount per gallon for the water they consume every month … proposed Kopper: “Be it resolved that the city’s water rates be set as follows: Fixed rates for each customer remain as set on Oct. 31, 2012. The rate for all customers shall be set at the following dollar amounts per ccf/month: $3.04 through July 2013, $3.88 through January 2014, $5.12 for 2014-15, $6.48 for 2015-16 and $7.46 for 2016-17. After 2017, there shall be a new Proposition 218 notice and the rates shall be adjusted in accordance with actual use in the community and the city need for water fees to pay for infrastructure and service.” …

Simple, equal, fair, uncomplicated, easy to understand … also very, very expensive … given that we now pay $1.50 per ccf, it’s a dramatic increase, but that’s what you’d expect when you’re putting $113 million on the table to bring Sacramento River water to Davis … the beauty here is that all ratepayers are treated equally and that everyone will know exactly what they’re voting for or against when they mail in their ballots by March 5 …

If you don’t like the new rates or if you feel the project is unnecessary, you can vote against it … and if you feel you can live with the rates and the project is a good thing for the city, you can vote in favor of it … but pro or con, we’ll all know what we’re voting on … the City Council has the final say on all this tonight, but don’t hold your breath that the Kopper motion will prevail …

EVEN MORE KOPPER COMMENT … city staff, which recommended against Kopper’s proposal, admitted that it was “very easy to understand” and the “easiest to administer” of all the proposals the WAC considered … however, in rejecting the proposal, staff said it might be “perceived as less fair by low water users.” … which is silly … under Kopper’s plan, which is about as fair as fair can be, low water users will pay far less each month than high water users … the problem here is that those low water users have become accustomed to having others subsidize their rates … the Kopper plan eliminates that inequity …

EVEN MORE WACKINESS … for unknown reasons, Bill Kopper’s straightforward, common-sense approach to rates did not win the day with the WAC, which recommended to the council something called the “CBFR” rate structure … never mind that no one in the Western Hemisphere knows what “CBFR” stands for, we have been able through the process of elimination to learn that the “C” stands for both “confusing” and “complicated” …

The CBFR has three separate rates, including one that charges you based on how much water you used in the summer of 2011 — I am not making this up — which is nothing short of goofy, not to mention unconstitutional … one city staffer claims it’s actually the summer of 2012, but the architect of the CBFR insists it’s the summer of 2011 … either way, it’s in the past and no one was warned that this would be the basis of rates two years later in violation of Prop. 218 language that says “Fees or charges based on potential or future use of a service are not permitted.” …

Since the rates will begin on May 1 of 2013 — if the project passes in March — these fees will indeed be based on a future use of a service, since the project will be nowhere near complete in May of 2013 … the only “legal” way to structure rates is to charge customers each month (or billing period) for the water they used in the previous month … going back two years, with no warning whatsoever, will never survive a legal challenge …

It’s a complete violation of the fair and equitable spirit of 218, a proposition that further states “The provisions of this act shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purposes of limiting local government revenue and enhancing taxpayer consent.” … the key word here being “consent” … I’m not aware of a single Davisite who consented in 2011 to have his water use from that summer used to calculate his bill in 2013 …

None of this seemed to concern the WAC … hopefully, it will be of concern to the City Council tonight …

EVEN MORE 218 LANGUAGE … that pesky Prop. 218 further states “The amount of a fee or charge imposed upon any parcel or person as an incident of property ownership shall not exceed the proportional cost of the service attributable to the parcel.” … the “tier” structure imbedded in the CBFR proposal does exactly that in violation of 218 by charging one homeowner more per gallon of water than his next-door neighbor … the city is going to have a difficult time explaining how delivering a gallon of water to one house is more expensive than delivering a gallon of water to another house … in fact, there is no rational way to explain it and still comply with the requirements of Prop. 218 …

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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