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TUD Board Passes Original, Steeper, Rate Hike Plan

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Sonora, CA — Tuolumne Utilities District water rates will go up an average of 28% on August 1st, and sewer rates will increase by 17%.

That was the original plan that was proposed and mailed out to ratepayers in the required 218 legal notice months ago. However, after hearing an outcry from ratepayers at a special meeting two weeks ago, it was temporarily scrapped, and staff was directed to come back with additional alternatives.

We reported earlier about the June 14 meeting when only two board members were in favor of the original plan as presented, Ron Ringen and Glen Jacobs. The three other board members, Jeff Kerns, Barbara Balen and David Boatright wanted other options to reduce the financial impacts on customers. All five members agreed that some type of increase would be required.

The board reconvened this morning at 9 am and six people came up during public comments to raise more concerns about the impacts of rate increases, notably raw water agricultural customers, who feel they are being treated unfairly.

In the end, TUD staff stressed that the lesser the rate increase, the larger the structural deficit over the coming years, and the more susceptible the district will be to infrastructure failures.

A winter water tank failure in Twain Harte was referenced on multiple occasions.

After reviewing all of the information, Board President Jeff Kerns decided to change his stance from two weeks prior, and voted with Ringen and Jacobs to approve the original rate plan.

Referencing the Twain Harte incident, and infrastructure issues, Kerns stated, “Three more (district) tanks are ready to fail. That is a heavy burden on our shoulders.”

He continued, “Ratepayers don’t want that happening next door to them (tank failure), either. We have a heavy responsibility here.”

Balen and Boatright remained in opposition to the original plan. Boatright proposed a lesser, 14% year-one water increase and 8.5% sewer increase, but Balen was the only other supporter.

TUD has cited inflation and the rising cost of doing business as the reasons for rate hikes.

The final vote was 3-2 in favor of the original, steeper, rate plan.