SFID board member encourages rate increase protests


The Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) board will consider taking action on an increased rate proposal at a hearing on Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 a.m. at the SFID offices. Customers can submit written protests up until that day on the proposed increases of an average of 9 percent annually over the next three years.

With the deadline for protests approaching, Rancho Santa Fe Association President Ann Boon invited Marlene King, the SFID board member who represents Fairbanks Ranch and a large portion of the Covenant, to speak to the board about her opposition to the rate changes at its May 5 meeting.

“I do not represent the point of view of the majority of the board, nor certainly the manager,” King said.

King encouraged those who are against the increases to turn in their protests. If a majority of the property owners in the district are against the rate increases (about 3,253 written ballots would be required), the board can’t move forward with the increases.

“It’s a grassroots effort,” King said. “Even though our lawns might be a little brown, the roots are still alive.”

King’s comments were not about whether the district needs the 9 percent increase. She attended all of SFID’s community forums and believes SFID Manager Mike Bardin did a very good job making the pitch of why the district needs the 9 percent.

Instead, her concerns are with the methods of the water rate analysis.

King supports fellow board member from the Covenant Director Greg Gruzdowich, who has been a strong advocate for higher fixed meter fees and kept asking for a bi-modal analysis of various customer classes.

“His proposal fell on deaf ears,” King said.

King said the way the water rate analysis was done, it was based on small city-size lots like those in Solana Beach.

“All of us (in Rancho Santa Fe) who live on larger properties are escalated to excess of users,” King said.

The new rate structure goes from three tiers to four tiers and King said the “big kicker” is that tier two cuts off at 37 units. The tier three cut off is 167 units, based on the highest summer usage of those 60 percent of lots in Solana Beach.

“The analysis is never saying what are the big lots doing, it’s always based on the big chunk of property owners in Solana Beach,” King said. “Everyone else is considered excessive users.”

The rate study is based on the American Water Works Association’s standard manual on principles of water rates, fees and charges, industry standards of average daily demand and average load conditions.

“Due to the fact that the rate proposal analysis was not bi-modal, these industry standards of average use result in more fixed costs being apportioned to larger properties. They can do it because that’s what the manual says but if it was a bi-modal analysis, there would certainly be people that were categorized as excessive users, but not all of us,” King said. “In my opinion that’s a flaw.”

The three-year rate proposal based on a 9 percent a year increase, has rate impacts of 24.6 percent for the largest users to 46.8 percent for the smallest users while over 30 percent of single family residences will receive a 4.6 percent rate decrease.

“The only customers that are actually going to be bringing additional revenue into the district off of what today’s rates are, are the people who are probably using 155 units per billing cycle. And by their own charts there’s probably only 15 percent of the customers in this entire district that use those kinds of numbers,” King said. “They’ve given a rate schedule that makes (Rancho Santa Fe) the excessive users, so they’re charging you more but you happen to be the only people that are going to be bringing the extra revenue in.”

“Those are some of the reasons why I’m going to be voting ‘no.’”

Any homeowner can submit a written protest on the proposed rate increases, they just have to provide the location of their parcel by street address, parcel number or customer account number and include a signature of the property owner. Written protests may be submitted to P.O. Box 409, Rancho Santa Fe, 92067 or in person at the SFID office. E-mail or electronic protests are not valid.