Oak Park water rate increase put on hold

Customers say their bills have more than doubled

Oak Park Water’s proposed 22 percent rate hike has been postponed, for now.

At its December meeting, Triunfo Sanitation District board members agreed to defer a vote on the rate hike at least until January. The district owns Oak Park Water, the community’s potable water provider.

Vice Chair Mike Paule suggested re-examining a rate study completed last summer that used tentative figures to arrive at the increase. The postponement doesn’t mean there won’t be a fee hike, only that it may be less than anticipated.

“We need to go back to the rate study experts and review if the assumptions made were accurate,” Paule said. “It appears to me in evaluating the numbers that our revenues will be higher than we expect, and it may not be necessary to pass through the entire rate increase.”

The 22 percent increase proposed for January is to match fee increases from water suppliers. The increase translates into about 39 cents per 100 cubic feet of water, which is 748 gallons.

In revenue it equates to about $470,000 a year or between $30,000 and $40,000 per month Paule said. Board member Tom Glancy supported the postponement, but offered a warning.

“If you don’t pass that 39cent increase then you’re subsidizing, and that’s a slippery slope,” Glancy said.

One of the factors affecting the original rate study figures is the mandatory conservation measures the district has adopted. Customers cut back on their water use, but still must pay more for what they use.

“We’re all consumers, and we don’t like rate increases,” said Paule, who is an Oak Park Water customer. “But to pay our bills we have no choice but to pass those rate increases on.”

The new water tank may not cost as much as originally thought, said board member Linda Parks, who also serves on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

“At the county level we are seeing construction costs coming down as much as a third less, and we may not need that full 39 cents,” Parks said.

The district imposed a 27 percent increase in September, 17 percent of which covered a price increase from its water suppliers. The remaining 10 percent was to help obtain financing for a new water tank to replace the aging Conifer Street structure.

The September bill also added a third tier of higher charges for water use. Customers who use more water will pay a higher rate.

Oak Park resident Craig Kronfeld appealed to the board to reconsider the rate increase. Kronfeld’s October bill was $274, up from his usual bill of about $90, he said. In November, Kronfeld shut the sprinklers off on his 7,800-square-foot lot and his bill fell dramatically.

“They are taking advantage of Oak Park,” Kronfeld said. “Why are we paying 51 percent more for water than Simi Valley? I’m outraged by this. It’s ridiculous.”

Esie Barari’s water bill more than doubled after the rate increase. The Oak Park resident’s bill is usually about $150. His September bill increased to $450.

Kosro Mohajerani’s bill is normally about $170. In October he paid $250. But in November his bill fell to $91 because he reduced his sprinkler time in the cool weather.


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