MMWD's board is set to vote on the rate and fee increases at its May 14 meeting, preceded by a public workshop on Thursday, April 25 at the Mill Valley Community Center (6-8pm). The board is expected to discuss the rate and fee hikes at its next meeting, set for March 19 at 7:30pm at its offices at 220 Nellen Ave., Corte Madera, CA 94925.
Customers' additional annual fees, which will be levied on their property tax bill, will be determined by the size of their water meter, as district officials say a larger meter has the capacity for significantly higher water demand than a smaller meter. Most customers in Mill Valley a 5/8-inch meter and and thus will incur a first-year fee of $163.50 (which can be increased by the MMWD board by up to 4 percent each year after that).
Fifty-two percent of non-residential (mostly businesses) in Mill Valley have a 5/8-inch meter, according to MMWD data, and another 23 percent have a 1-inch meter, for which those customers would pay a $409 fee in the first year.
The district is planning at least $208 million in capital improvements in the next decade that would be paid for with the new fee revenue, according to the Marin IJ. The projects funded by the additional revenue include $18 million in seismic upgrades to its three water treatment plants, $27 million in maintaining and replacing storage tanks and $103 million to replace aging pipelines and pump stations, among other investments, according to district officials. About $1 million of fee revenue is proposed to go to fire fuel management and firefighting equipment.
District officials told the Marin IJ that the fees are meant to "shift the district away from borrowing money to pay for infrastructure to a cash-based system instead," resulting "in lower interest payments being passed on to customers, ultimately saving each customer an estimated $90 per year."
In addition to the new fees, the proposed water rate increases are meant to increase by about 4 percent annually to address costs of inflation.
An 2017 IJ editorial pointed out the turbulence of water policy in recent years: "Ratepayers have been whipsawed by the (MMWD)’s mixed messages. While following the district’s push for conservation, by cutting back on their water use ratepayers have reduced the district’s income. That led to last year’s approval of a two-pronged increase that boosted rates 27 percent, including fees for water, service and managing the district’s watershed. Then complying with the state’s emergency order to reduce water use during the drought, the district came back with another round of increases. Ratepayers have been using less water, but paying more for each drop."