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New year, new rates Robert Moreno | Sat, Dec 28 2013 12:00 PM

Chula Vista residents are to see an increase in their sewer bill come July 1 as council members approved a rate hike at the Dec. 17 council meeting.

The 5.7 percent increase per year for the next five years is said to offset the rising cost of treating wastewater, rehabilitation of pipes and basic operations.

The increase will be Chula Vista’s first sewer increase in three years.

It will also help Chula Vista build a Point Loma reserve fund.

The fund sets money aside in case the city of San Diego does not receive a waiver to continue operating the Point Loma treatment plant at an advance primary level, which is a method of treating water with chemicals to separate organic matter from solids in wastewater.

The waiver is set to expire in 2015.

“It’s never our goal to raise rates unless we absolutely have to,” said City Manager Jim Sandoval before council approved the rate.

City engineer Bill Valle said the city needed to increase the rates to maintain and sustain the city’s sewer system from normal wear and tear.

Chula Vista resident David Danciu said he understood the need to maintain the city’s wastewater system, but asked council to consider helping those who cannot afford such an increase.

“The proposed five-year plan for rate increases may not make a lot of difference to most folks but will certainly affect many,” Danciu said. “I would ask my representatives to No.1: consider a smaller rate of increase for fewer years of scheduled increases, and of course, No 2: find a way to fund discounts for low-income families.”

Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar said she too supported some sort of a discount for low-income families, which city staff said they will discuss in the near future.

She said although the median home income in Chula Vista is higher than countywide, there are residents who can’t afford the increase.

According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in the county of San Diego from 2008-2012 is $63,373, in Chula Vista it is $65,364.

Valle said the city of Chula Vista informed its nearly 250,000 residents of a potential increase in October when it sent out more than 97,000 mailings explaining the potential increase.

Ana Buising with Infrastructure Engineering Corp. helped with the public outreach to inform the resident about the potential increase.

Buising said after hearing residents’ concerns about possible changes to the sewer billing system, the city decided to keep the current billing method.

The city had initially proposed billing residents on their property taxes.

“We heard so much concern from the community about these potential changes that staff will not be proposing changes to the sewer billing delivery system,” she said.

California’s Prop. 218 allows the residents of California an opportunity to repeal or reduce a local tax, assessment or fee.

More than 23,000 signatures were needed to prevent council from voting on the item. Only 115 signatures were collected.

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