Water rates going up and down (April 3, 2017)

Town questions latest CPUC filing; Liberty says net result is customers will pay slightly less

APPLE VALLEY — After Liberty Utilities recently announced a rate increase and lengthy rate freeze, the water company has filed to increase rates once again. But company officials said the proposed rate increase, along with a proposed decrease, will actually result in customers paying less on their utility bill.

Liberty raised rates for Apple Valley customers by 4.88 percent about three months ago and also announced a 2-year rate freeze. But the water company filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission last week to impose a 1 percent surcharge.

“We’re perplexed by Liberty’s decision to ask for almost a quarter million in additional revenue just six months after publicly announcing a rate freeze,” said Apple Valley Mayor Scott Nassif in news release. “In January, Liberty’s Vice President and General Manager promised transparency and accountability. Springing this increase on residents without any advance written notice certainly doesn’t seem to fit with that theme.”

Liberty Utilities officials announced the rate freeze was an opportunity to “better engage customers.” The freeze locked in base rates at 2017 levels for more than two years, the Daily Press reported in January.

In a Liberty Utilities “advice letter filing” to the CPUC dated Friday, the water company requests authorization to implement a “temporary surcharge” to water rates in Liberty’s “Apple Valley Service Area.”

According to the advice letter, the .065 increase is for domestic metered customers for a 12-month period. “The surcharge is designed to recover the combined under-collection recorded in the 2016 Water Revenue.”

Liberty officials told the Daily Press on Monday that water rates will actually decrease from 16.9 cents to 6.5 cents per one CCF (748 gallons) on May 1 after the company submitted the required Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism and Modified Cost Balancing Account annual filings to the CPUC on Friday.

“The typical Liberty Apple Valley residential customer uses 11.655 CCF (8,716 gallons) of water each month and will see a net decrease of approximately $2.42 on their bi-monthly water bill,” the Liberty release said.

Based on Liberty’s advice letter, $245,482 will be added to the company’s revenue if the request is approved by the CPUC.

“Liberty Apple Valley has stabilized customer water bills,” said Tony Penna, Liberty’s vice president and general manager. “Approximately 90 percent of our customers pay less than $120 every two months ($60 per month) for their water service. In many cases, people are paying less for water today than they were four years ago. We are proud to serve and be a trusted community partner in Apple Valley.”

The Town of Apple Valley is considering whether to protest the advice letter and proposed rate increase, according to its news release.

According to Liberty officials, the town does have the “opportunity to protest” the water company’s “rate decrease.”

The public has 20 days to file responses and protests with the CPUC. Protest letters must include the utility company’s name and “advice” letter in subject line. Letters can be emailed to water_division@cpuc. ca.gov or mailed to Tariff Unit, Water Division, 3rd Floor, California Public Utilities Commission, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102.

Source: Rene Ray De La Cruz, Daily Press