The Trench Tax was created as a means to pay for the damage created by having wet utilities (water lines, sewers, etc.) buried in the street.
Keep in mind that the Trench Tax is part of the New & Improved Franchise Fee and does not include the cost of the Maintenance Services Department repairing the street each time their is a water leak or water line repair.
According to three licensed civil engineers that I have shown the transfer study to, trench settling occurs when the soil is not compacted appropriately. Using the correct backfill material and compaction standards will create a base capable of supporting the road. In lay terms, when done correctly, trench work does NOT accelerate deterioration of the street. Also, when contractors want to dig in the street, a city inspector comes out to make sure that the street is constructed and restored correctly. This is a double standard with no inspector verifying the City work.
Aside from the Trench Tax, Maintenance Services Department bills their time spent working on broken water lines to the City's General Fund, at least that is what Dave Schickling reported at the April 9, 2012 meeting. I have found no evidence to support this claim but since there is no audit of the Water Fund, we cannot possibly know if money was paid to the General Fund to reimburse for the Maintenance Services Department's water-related work. More importantly, this cannot be part of the Franchise Fee because that is suppose to cover certain administrative costs (which we were taxed twice for as well and is indicated in the pie chart - Franchise Fee vs. Other Expenses vs. Administrative Services).
And then there is this pesky but colorful pie chart which shows that the Maintenance Services Department accounted for 21% of the budgeted cost to maintain the Water System, or $4,746,000 in 2011.
We are left contemplating just how many ways City staff will attempt to tax our water to fix the same piece of asphalt. Here are at least two:
- Trench Tax (a.k.a New & Improved Franchise Fee, less rent-back)
- Allocation of Water Fund from water bill for Maintenance Services
But it gets worse. How much bureaucratic overhead is paid for through your water bill and what does it actually cover? Find out tomorrow.