On May 7 the Fullerton City Council approved two resolutions to charge more money to provide water to the city’s residents. The council unanimously voted for a simple pass through increase to ratepayers to accommodate higher costs charged by the Metropolitan Water District. Such an increase is all but unavoidable. The other measure, however, adopted in a split vote with Mayor Bruce Whitaker and Councilmember Greg Sebourn dissenting, enshrined a dubious formula for determining the cost of service the city will now charge its own water utility for the foreseeable future.
Last summer a council majority of Bruce Whitaker, Greg Sebourn, and Travis Kiger stripped away a 10% en lieu water fee perpetuated even after 1996‘s Prop. 218 made such levies illegal without approval by voters. It was supposed to be a cost of service fee for water delivery, though it was never applied for such a purpose. Recognizing that it was wrong to continue an illegal tax, Councilmembers Whitaker, Sebourn and Kiger voted to refund the maximum amount allowable back to the ratepayers. The November election altered these plans, however, by seating new council members who were not as responsive to the taxpayers.
In February the new council majority of Jan Flory, Doug Chaffee and Jennifer Fitzgerald accepted as valid a set of theoretical expenses based, in part, on the costs of leasing properties owned by the city to its own water utility, for everything from water storage to office space. Despite the evident lack of any such existing leases, this new majority of the council agreed with a staff assessment that the city should base its estimate on what they ought to have been directly charging the water utility in prior years, not on what was actually charged in the past. (See Ryan Cantor’s March 4 review of this farcical decision at Orange Juice Blog).
Because our water delivery system has been neglected, rates will inevitably increase to pay for repairs, and for increased energy costs to pump and transport water, but it shouldn’t be acceptable to raid an illegally collected fund for this purpose. Rarely have I ever witnessed a government so blatantly rationalize taking money from its citizens, who will not be pleased to find out that they won’t be receiving the full refund they had every right to expect.