Madera County residents could see water rate hike

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some Madera County residents could soon have to pay more for their water.

Madera County Public Works officials say several districts could see an increase to their water rates as part of a study that started two years ago.

Public Works Deputy Director, Andrea Saldate said the county's general fund has subsidized these special districts for decades. She said they need to pay back the more than $700,000 they owe.

"We have four districts right now, some of which have some debt. Others do not, but they haven't had rate increases over 20 years, and those rates have not kept in line with expenses," Saldate said.

Several districts have already approved their new rates. The next four districts that could see the proposed water rates are Mountain Ranches, Goldside Estates, Sunset Ridge and Meadow View.

They will not all see the same proposed rates because costs are based on the general fund debt they owe, and the number of homes within each district.

"Economies of scale play a key role in what these residences have to pay. The smaller the district, the more they'll have to pay," Saldate said.

Across the four districts, the rate increases can range from 5% all the way up to 200%.

Sunset Ridge resident, Coy Barnes, said he was shocked when he opened this letter about the rate hike.

"The first raise I said, 'Wow! 260 percent rate in one year? That's quite a bit of money'."

Along with the letter, Public Works employees are also reaching out to communities through phone conferences to inform them of the increase and why it's happening.

The county would need a 50 percent plus one vote from district residents to pass the rate, and it will go to a public hearing.

If residents vote against it, it's possible the state may have to get involved.

"There are some districts talking about privatization as an option, which that could be one, or a dissolution of a certain district," Public Works Director Ahmad Alkhayyat said.

Barnes understands the need for a raise, but he hopes the county can look into a lower rate.

"Raise it $20 or $30. That would make a lot of difference I'm sure."

Anyone with a question or concern about the water rates can call the Madera County Public Works Department for more information.

Public Works Employees said more districts could also soon start seeing letters about proposed water rate increases.
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