Water board approves budget containing rate increase

The Santa Fe Irrigation District board unanimously approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 at its meeting on Thursday, June 15. The $30.1 million spending plan includes a rate increase of about 12 percent that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

The rate increase includes 9 percent imposed by Santa Fe, plus a “pass through” of about 3 percent based on increases in water costs from the district’s suppliers, said Michael Bardin, Santa Fe general manager.

District officials have said the water agency’s financial position is improved this year, thanks to abundant rain that provided cheaper local water, an increase in customer demand due to the elimination of water-use restrictions as the state’s drought ended, and two 9 percent rate increases already instituted in January and last June.

The district plans to use its additional revenue this year to beef up its reserves, which were depleted during the drought, as water use and sales were cut back dramatically and rainfall was scarce. District officials said during a budget report last month that about $3.2 million will be earmarked for reserves in the new budget.

Although the budget does assume the district will impose a 9 percent rate increase Jan. 1, 2018 as contained in a three-year rate plan approved by the board in 2016, the board will discuss the rate increase later this year before it takes effect.

The Santa Fe Irrigation District provides water to customers in Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Fairbanks Ranch.