AVRWC water rates to increase in January (December 2, 2011)

APPLE VALLEY • The California Public Utilities Commission ruled that Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company may raise their rates by 3.8 percent effective Jan. 1, but more increases may be on the horizon pending a final decision by the commission.

We were hoping to have the final increase by January, but the ruling judge had more cases ahead of this one, said Scott Weldy, general manager for Ranchos. We could get the new ruling any time.

In January, Ranchos requested a three year incremental rate increase of 20 percent beginning in 2012 with the first year increa se set at 14.4 percent, a 2.3 percent increase in 2013 and a 3.3 percent in 2014.

The CPUC ruling on Nov. 21 gave Ranchos the minimal rate increase based on the most recent Consumer Price Index report ending August 2011.

That increase is temporary and allows the water company to bring in additional revenue until the final word is given, Weldy said.

With such a large gap between Rancho’s requested rate hike and the Consumer Price Index, many water customers have been left frustrated and questioning how the company could justify such a large increase.

During public hearings on June 1, water company representative Edward Jackson said the rate increase request was initiated by many factors such as increased energy costs, aging water infrastructures and reduced revenue as a result of conservation.

Jackson explained that other water agencies have additional sources of revenue, such as reserved funds, connection fees, water related property tax assessments or subsidized water rates through general funds.

The PUC ruling requires Ranchos to track the difference between interim rates and final rates in an account that’s subject to refund, consistent with the final rates adopted by the Commission.

During June’s meeting, Apple Valley Unified School District Superintendent Tom Hoegerman said a 20 percent rate increase would mean a $134,000 yearly increase to the school district.

Assistant Town Manager Dennis Cron also said the town of Apple Valley is opposed to the 20 percent rate increase and will continue to do what it can to represent the residents of this community with regard to this rate case hearing.

Source: Rene De La Cruz, Daily Press