Santa Paula Times

Council approves wastewater customer rebate program

March 11, 2016
Santa Paula News

Rebates are on their way but Santa Paula wastewater customers will have to wait until May for the first rebate to be deducted from their bill after the City Council approved the policy at Monday’s meeting.

At the March 7 meeting the council approved the city’s approximately 6,600 customers to receive quarterly rebates on their base wastewater rate of $77.21 a month, one of the priciest municipal rates in the state. Customers will still have a surcharge of $1.20 per 100 cubic feet of water used.

The first rebate — now estimated at $60 — will appear on customers’ wastewater bills in May.

Finance Director Sandy Easley told the council “The goal here is to give relief to taxpayers and keep up our bond rating…customers will receive a rebate on a quarterly basis retroactive to January 1 through March 7,” based on a $20 monthly rebate.

Such rebates added Easley will “take into account payment of bond debt, maintenance,” capital improvements and other needs with money put aside to cover such payments of needs.

The “criteria for the rebate program would be 1.5 times the debt service,” a rate that Easley said would raise the city’s already strong rating to A+ or “even an AA-.”

Vice Mayor Jenny Crosswhite asked why the rebate would not appear on the April bill and Easley said staff is working with the software company “to find the most effective way to add to the accounts,” for the first time.

“So eventually,” noted Mayor Martin Hernandez, “we’ll be on track.”

A committee will meet each quarter to analyze wastewater revenues and expenses and to calculate the amount of the rebates while ensuing there is enough money for the city’s needs.

The rebates are the result of savings generated by the city’s purchase of the wastewater treatment plant from a private company for about $76 million, a deal struck in April 2015. The purchase lowered the interest rate paid by the city from more than 8 percent to slightly more than 4 percent. The city also had other savings after the City Council made buying the plant a top priority.

“Very likely we’ll be saving even more,” by changing the operator said Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi, “so that savings will also” be given to customers. “I’m really pleased that we have moved forward with this…”