Monday, 20 March 2023

Montgomery: Now is not the time for exorbitant utility fee increases

Hidden Valley Lake water and sewer fees are projected to soar – unless a majority of ratepayers writes to protest by Dec. 15.

The HVL Community Services District is proposing rates that would cause the average household's monthly water bill to go up 78 percent, from $63 currently to $112 in July of 2024. The steepest increases would come immediately, first in January and again in July of the new year.

In justifying the increases, the district has cited a backlog of infrastructure maintenance, needed upgrades, and the impact of natural disasters and public safety power shutoffs. However, community members have named a number of potential cost-saving measures, such as having employees share a portion of health insurance costs or postponing salary increases.

Another way of easing the burden of sudden large rate hikes would be to finance needed infrastructure upgrades through a bond. A bond would be paid off, with interest, over a longer period.

At an informational meeting last week, General Manager Dennis White said that bond financing would be explored in the future, but he gave no explanation for why it hasn't been considered to date. Neither did he offer any hope of relief from the looming rate changes.

With many people out of work, now is not the time for exorbitant utility fee increases. Homeowners and landlords are likely to watch their property values decline in reaction, and renters already on the edge may be forced out.

Enough letters of protest could stop the increases under Prop. 218 law and send the district back to the drawing board. Such letters must meet specific criteria and be hand-delivered to the district office or mailed for receipt by Dec. 15.

A local citizen's group, HVL Now, has been distributing a fill-in-the-blank template letter. Their email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can visit their Facebook page.

Elizabeth Montgomery lives in Hidden Valley Lake, California.

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