Councilman Moore opposes changes, cites increases to his constituents’ bills
The Seal Beach City Council approved new sewer and water rates on Tuesday, Feb. 22, with one dissenting vote. The water rates are set to go into effect May 1 this year and increase each January through 2025. According to the city’s consultant, a one-time 25% decrease in the sewer rate will offset water rate increases for some Seal Beach residents.
Sewer fund reserves will be used to “buy down” the sewer rate, according to the consultant However, according to Councilman Thomas Moore, Leisure World and College Park West residents will see their bills increase.
Moore voted against changing the water and sewer rates. Moore represents College Park West and Leisure World. He confirmed that bills for Leisure World residents will increase annually. He also believes College Park West residents will see their bills increase.
Other council members expressed concern with postponing rate changes, citing the need to improve the city’s water system.
In related news, 11 individuals sent written protests to the city. According to a staff report, if protests represented more than 50% of the parcels, the council could not go forward. A resident phoned the council to speak during the water rate hearing, but around 9:26 p.m., City Clerk Gloria Harper reported that they had lost contact with her.
After the council held the public hearing on the proposed rate changes, City Clerk Gloria Harper reported that of the 11 protests, eight were against the water rate increase.
“First, I believe the City does need to update its water system. It has been let go for a long time and rates have not gone up in 6 years,” Moore wrote in a Feb. 23 email.
According to Public Works Director Steve Myrter, the city water system needs improvements over the next five years.
“It was portrayed that residents would actually save money next year which is true if you have sewer service with Seal Beach and for residents that do not live in College Park West or Leisure World,” Moore wrote.
Steve Gagnon, project manager for Raftelis Financial Consultants, told the council that the city was “buying down” the water rate by using money from sewer fund reserves to decrease the city’s sewer rate 25% for this year. He said the sewer fund is in good shape. The water fund, however, is not.
In a recent email, Public Works Director Steve Myrter wrote that each Leisure World unit would see a monthly increase of $2.44 for water and 17 cents for sewer service, resulting in a combined increase of $2.61.
Moore provided additional details about the Leisure World bills. “Provided the GRF charge according to how they currently spread out their costs, the monthly cost for an average apartment will go from 13.35 per month to 22.37 per month in 2025,” Moore wrote.
“The annual cost will go from $160.20 currently to $268.44 in 2025,” Moore wrote.
“There is no offset of a discount from the sewer bill for College Park West or Leisure World, so these areas will only see an increase in water rates. These are difficult times and it just doesn’t seem right to increase rates at this time,” Moore wrote.
“For example, my bill in College Park West during a low water month will go from $66.85 bimonthly or $401.10 per year to $101.39 bimonthly or $608.34 a year in 2025 for about a $207.24 per year increase,” Moore wrote.
He cited one of the assumptions used in the consultant’s rates study was an expected Orange County Water District increase of 6.5% for water. However, that has changed.
According to Moore, resident Robert Goldberg told city staff that the OCWD changed the rate by 4.5%. Moore said that would save Seal Beach $440,000 and would have reduced water rates.
During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Varipapa opposed “tinkering” with the consultant’s predictions. He expressed concern that more delays would just add more costs to the city. Mayor Joe Kalmick said he agreed with Varipapa that the city could bring down rates in the future.
District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt, who also represents Leisure World, opposed doing rate changes “piecemeal.” She expressed concern that doing so would affect city improvement projects.
Among those improvements are staff plans to replace all of Seal Beach’s smart meters. According to Moore’s email, smart meters cost seven times more than regular water meters.
Kalmick said he would like to look at smart meters another time.
Technically, the council had to approve three separate resolutions, including a Municipal Code change, to change the water and sewer rates. The city code change will return for formal adoption at a future meeting.