John Thomson remembers how he felt when he got a notice from the El Dorado Irrigation District (EID) last month. It said rates could be going up by 65% over the next five years.
“At first it was disbelief and then it was anger.”
The retired El Dorado Hills resident says the timing of the proposed rate hike is all wrong.
“People are worried about their homes and we’re in the middle of the biggest depression we’ve had since the ‘30s – I couldn’t believe that folks at the EID were going to raise rates.”
Thomson is with the group Citizens Against Rate Extortion. They’re trying to rally county residents to write protest letters against the proposed hikes. Under Proposition 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act”, the EID wouldn’t be able to raise rates if a majority of property owners submitted written protests.
The rate hike would start at 35% this year, followed by 15% next year and then 5% for each of the following three-years.
Officials with the El Dorado Irrigation District say the utility’s in a dire situation and they need to fill a budget gap – a $13-million gap attributed to fewer new hookup fees because of the housing downturn.
“Staff did not do this lightly. This is very serious business.”
District spokeswoman Deanne Kloepfer says they understand how hard it is for their customers during these economic times.
“On the other hand, in order to continue to provide the level of service that we provide here we really do need a rate increase otherwise we face some potential consequences from our bond holders if we can’t meet debt service requirements, which could be pretty dramatic.”
She says that could mean everything from lawsuits to potential forced takeover of the district.
Several public workshops on the proposed rate hikes have been scheduled…including one tonight at the Pollock Pines Community Center. The utility’s board of directors will take a vote on February 4th.