New TUD water rate plan hits the right mark

By Union Democrat staff April 27, 2012 01:00 pm

The county’s largest water and sewer utility recently announced a more reasonable water rate plan after angry water customers mounted a successful effort to block a massive rate hike late last year. 

The Tuolumne Utilities District was forced to return to the drawing board and come back with a rate plan that combines cuts as well as a small increase in rates.

Unlike the original rate plan, the new plan includes meaningful cuts and does not place the burden of rising costs solely on the backs of water customers. We feel this is a better policy and shows that TUD better-understands the harsh economic realities many local households and local businesses face.

The new rate structure reflects modest cuts to employee benefits and health care, cutting unfilled positions, reduced spending on studies, and a diminished “rate stabilization fee.”

The revised plan calls on customers to shoulder a $1.71 to $3.07 a month rate hike which will increase incrementally by the same amount over the next two years. The earlier plan, by contrast, called for a nearly $10 a month increase each year until 2014. The average TUD customer pays $40.56 per month.

Most ratepayers accept that their water bills will rise from time to time, but it is TUD’s job to portion out those increases at regular intervals so customers can more easily absorb the extra costs into their home budgets. The new rate plan accomplishes this.

We believe the TUD Board of Directors should embrace the new rate structure, and ratepayers should accept that reasonably higher water bills are a fact of life given increasing regulations and a legitimate need for repairs to the district’s aging water system.