A proposal that would radically change the city's water billing system will compete on the March 26 ballot with a city-sponsored measure that would maintain the status quo.
The changes, proposed by Councilman Bob Dinsen and his supporters, would simplify the water rate structure to a level that critics say would endanger the city's financial stability.
"We have a sophisticated and efficient mechanism" for billing that protects the city from fluctuations in water cost and use, Controller Anthony Andrade said. To tamper with it, he said, could expose the city to significant cash-flow problems.
Dinsen's initiative, Measure CC, would eliminate the flat minimum rate that residents are now charged in addition to what they pay based on the amount of water they use. That would force large users--including the city itself--to pay more for capital expenses, Dinsen said.
As the system works now, a typical residential user pays more per gallon for infrastructure maintenance and improvement than does a large-volume user, Dinsen said.
Dinsen also seeks to end a system under which the city draws about $1.35 million a year from the water department budget to pay expenses that in some cases are unrelated to water. That money should be returned to the residents, he said.
City officials, including Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater and three other council members, insist that the city is already running at a deficit and has no money to give up in the water department or elsewhere. And the issue is not clear-cut as Dinsen sees it, said Terry Lane, water service manager for the city. "Everything ties together in a sophisticated manner," Lane said.