Monday, May 23, 2011

Water Rate Increase Notice Heading to Your Mailbox

The notices will go out June 1 and will advise water rate payers that their water bills will increase as much as...6% per year every year for 5 years and then 3% every year for 5 more years.  But wait there's more! 

There will also be at least a 1.8% additional increase to cover that pesky "pass-through" cost that is a direct result of rate increases from OCWD, MWDOC, and MWD.

All of these are compounding interest rates with numerous variables that will likely increase.

Throughout the Water Rate Study process I struggled to get anyone to tell me what the actual cost is per meter.  I was told continually that the cost is really high and we just can't go there.  How expensive is it??  After hours and hours of meetings and studying I still don't have an answer. 

Here is what I do know. 

All of the "pass-through costs" related to the City's purchase of water are grossly underestimated.  I fear the actually "pass-through" cost will go up as much as 20% in just the next 2 to 3 years. 

The Water Rate Study showed a 3% increase in city employee costs could be expected despite the fact that the proposed budget shows a 3% in crease for CalPERS (pensions) for general (non-safety) employees and a 7.4% increase for safety employees.  The same proposed budget shows group benefits to increase 6.8% for non-safety employees and 7.8% for safety employees.  So, right from the start we have a glaring flaw that needs to be rectified.

Sexual harassment training is just one of the
Ethics Office accomplishments.  MWD Ethics
Office also created and provided Rumors and
Gossip training and ethical decision making
training for managers and employees.
 The Water Rate Study also shows the MWD pass-through as increasing by 6%.  However, MWD's proposed budget shows an increase of 23% for system operation as well as another 23% for construction costs.  The same MWD proposed budget shows MWD employees receiving a 12% increase in salaries and benefits and 18.4% increase in "labor costs".  The MWD budget has other fluff, such as the Ethics Office I wrote about HERE that costs rate payers $573,000 to review legislation and train employees on sexual harassment.

And the most egregious part of the Water Rate Study is the sacred franchise tax.  Most people pay their water bill believing that when they pay for that portion noted as "water" that they are in fact actually paying for the cost to purchase water and maintain the water system.  They are wrong.

First, according to the Water System Manager, we do not recover the actual cost of maintaining and delivering the water.  Hence the water rate study.


City profits from hidden tax!

Second, 10%-11% of your water bill (not your total utility bill) goes into the general fund.  The general fund is what pays for a major portion of our public safety and employee benefits such as pensions.  That 10%-11% does NOT go into the water fund.  So, when I asked the consultant from Municipal Financial Services how much the City marks up the water I was shocked that he said the City does not make any money on water sales.  Of course the City makes money, $2,486,000 is a nice chunk of change which that can only be labeled as profiteering or perhaps municipal greed. 

You see, franchise fees exist so that when a company, let's say AT&T, buries wires in the road, they have to pay a small fee to the City as rent.  That fee helps cover inspection and maintenance costs and is similar to a property tax.  That seems like a pretty rational way to deal with private entities using public right-of-way for utility systems but when the City charges its own water rate payers, it is adding insult to injury.


In the case of Fullerton's Water Rates a few things need to be made crystal clear to rate payers and to the City Council:
  • First, rate payers do not pay enough to cover the actual cost of maintaining and replacing the water system.
  • Second, our current water rates are based completely on consumption which is dependent on users consuming more water in order to maintain the system.  In fact, the more you conserve water, the more the City of Fullerton must raise water rates.  That's a stupid way of addressing our infrastructure.  No matter how much water you use or don't use there is a specific cost to make it available to you.  The water bill should have 2 segments: one for the fixed cost to have water available and a second segment that reflects the exact cost for water consumed.  That would be the most transparent way to address this.
  • Third, the City Council must abolish the franchise tax.  I realize that it will cause a $2.5-million shortfall in the general fund but keeping the tax in place is abusive and wasteful governance.  The City Council and City Manager's Office must be reminded that they, like the rest of us, must live within our means.  That means its time to drop the $50,000 allocation for membership in the League of Cities and Southern California Association of Governments and cut out the $50,000 allocated in the Public Works Department's Capitol Improvement Program to replace window coverings at Basque Yard (see page N-10 of proposed CIP).
At a time when 1 out of 4 of your friends, family, and neighbors are out of work, we need to remind our elected representatives of their fiduciary responsibility to voters and taxpayers. 
No comment.
Your last chance to speak up is July 19 at the City Council meeting and public hearing.

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Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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