Special to the Messenger from Timothy R. Shaw, Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District General Manager
The June 30th special meeting of the RLECWD Board of Directors included a passionate (emphasis added) debate regarding a perspective on a topic that some (including myself) find difficult to understand. One Board member and a member of the public representing an organized opposition to the rate restructuring expressed, as they consistently have in the past, vehement opposition to what they term “taking away our free 600 cubic feet of water”. The one Board Member and public member want to point all of the focus on the proposed change to the volume component of the rate structure and zero recognition of the proposed decrease in the fixed charge component. Many attempts have been made to help the one Board Member and the public member organizing rate restructuring opposition understand the reasonable and substantial reasons for this aspect of rates restructuring, which include compliance with the current California laws implementing water loss standards and increasing focus on water use efficiency and water affordability, especially for the disadvantaged.
This post, however, is focused on the most basic aspect of this proposed change to rate structure, FAIRNESS!
It is simply unfair and a disproportionate allocation of charges to charge everyone for 600 cubic feet of water whether they use it or not. The current rate structure includes a fixed charge of $59.86 for a 5/8-inch service and $99.77 for a 1-inch service. The proposed rate structure includes an increase for the volumetric component of the rates (price per unit of water used starting with the first unit, AND a substantial decrease in the fixed charges These fixed charges in the current rate structure include 600 cubic feet (6-units) of water, i.e., the so-called “600 cubic feet of free water”.
If every customer always uses 6-units of water in every billing cycle, there could be no valid, reasonable argument that the current rate structure is unfair. The one Board Member and the organized opposition to rate restructuring would be justified in their opposition to restructuring.
The fact is many customers do NOT use 6-units of water especially in the cooler, wetter months of the year. Some customers do not have expansive, thirsty lawns to water, so they do not use 6-units even in warmer months. Many in the RLEWD consistently use water efficiently. I have personally interacted with customers who struggled to make ends meet especially during the pandemic, who have brought in their water bills to show me that they went from 5-units of water in one billing cycle to 4-units of water in the next billing cycle, but their bill remains the same.
On my way to work this morning, I thought about analogies that might help rate restructuring opponents and all ratepayers, in general, understand the fairness of charging only the cost of providing service, those that use 5-units of water pay a little less than those that use 6-units of water. I came up with this:
Imagine Walmart has been selling cooling fans for $100 and that price includes free shipping. The price for going to Walmart and buying the item is also $100. Then Walmart changes its pricing, recognizing that a large number of cooling fans are purchased in the store. Walmart “rolls back” the price for their cooling fans to $90 and charges $5 dollars for shipping. Everyone wins and nobody loses. Walmart, in-store customers, and delivery customers all benefit from the total purchase pricing and cost of service that more closely matches reality. The previous free shipping price structure was charging in-person shoppers more so that those who want their cooling fans delivered for free could get the same price.
Now apply that concept to RLECWD customers and the current vs. proposed rate structure. Let us look at the bills for customers using 6-units of water under the current rate structure vs. the proposed rate structure. Let us also look at 4-units of water in current vs. proposed rates.
Now ask yourself what would motive a passionate, deceptive, and aggressive campaign against this fairer price structure?
Could it be those using lots of water want those using less to continue to pay more than their fair share?
Timothy Shaw is the General Manager of the Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District. He invites the opportunity to answer questions and clarify any water-related concerns you may have. You can contact Mr. Shaw at 916-991-1000, or by email at GM@rlecwd.com
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