Novato area residents will see changes to their water bills starting in October.
Earlier this year, the North Marin Water District approved a water rate hike and restructuring plan for its Novato customers, but it delayed the start until October rather than July 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy.
“While the overall revenue increase is 6%, individual bills will vary,” Drew McIntyre, the district’s general manager, wrote in an email. “The typical residential customer (56% of all accounts) will pay about $4 more per month as a result of the approved changes.”
More than 19,000 residential accounts and 1,200 business accounts will be affected by the rate changes. The rate changes do not affect the district’s West Marin accounts, though the district plans to consider a rate hike for those customers before July.
The rate increase and restructuring in October will boost the district’s revenues by 6%, but how it will affect customers’ bills is more complicated. The district encourages customers to visit its cost calculator website at nmwd.com to determine how the rate changes will affect them.
Overall, the district will be lowering the threshold for how much water a customer can use before being bumped into a higher rate tier.
Under the new structure, the tier 1 threshold would drop to 262 gallons per day with a new rate of $5.50 per thousand gallons. Tier 2 would range from 262 to 720 gallons per day at a rate of $6.23. Tier 3, above 720 gallons per day, would be $7.67.
A rate study completed earlier this year said the new structure better reflects the source and costs of the water being delivered as required under Proposition 218.
Earlier this year, the board adopted several policy changes in an attempt to address the pandemic’s financial impacts on customers. A new low-income discount program that took effect in July reduces bimonthly water bills by $15 for qualifying single-family households.
The district also extended a moratorium on water shutoffs due to non-payment by three months past whenever the state moratorium ends; extended repayment plans from a maximum of 12 months to 24 months; and extended a forbearance on late fees by 180 days.
This rate increase is the first of five rate hikes the district plans to adopt over a five-year period. The rate hikes are meant to double the district’s investment in maintaining its infrastructure from $3 million to $6 million per year and pay for $27.8 million in projects ranging from facility upgrades such as its water quality testing laboratory to repairs of aging equipment.
District staff say the rising rates are also meant to keep pace with rising employee costs, operations and a 6.8% rate increase in July from Sonoma Water, which is NMWD’s main water supplier.
Without the rate increases, the district would face depleting its $10 million reserve fund by 2024, according to a district rate study.
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