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Developer’s water fees could be rising

Development: Lack of construction growth likely to lead to increase in fees to pay for new water pip

Posted: January 13, 2011 10:19 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2011 4:30 a.m.
 

Local water officials responding to a drop in revenue — due to a drop in land development — want to increase the fees they charge developers to pay for projects like new pipelines.

Castaic Lake Water Agency board members reviewed a proposal Wednesday night outlining how and why special fees charged to developers should be increased at this time.

The short answer is that the fees are routinely updated every two years.

The more involved answer is that less money is coming from developers who aren’t building as much as they have been and the agency still needs the money for pricey projects.

Board members discussed depleted agency funds, a dwindling water supply throughout the state and the drop in local land development during the three-hour special meeting.

The facility capacity fees were set up in 1987 to allow the local agency to offset some costs for capital projects needed to bring safe, clean drinking water to a growing population in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The agency issued 22 new certificates to developers asking for 31 total acre-feet of demanded water — enough to fill 135,000 bathtubs. For that water, the developers paid $319,303 in fees.

Developers paid $1.17 million in Facility Capacity Fees for a total of 142 new certificates for 106 acre-feet of water, or about 618,550 bathtubs of water.

And that’s not much, General Manager Dan Masnada said.

“We’re in a financial hole,” Masnada said. “I know there’s not a whole lot of development going on right now, so even with these increases, we’re not developing a lot of revenue.”

 The act allows the agency to raise the fees according to a complex table of numbers reflecting the size of a growing population and the cost of the required infrastructure, such as new water treatment plants and pumping stations.

The model used in calculating those fees proved confusing for some of the board members Wednesday.

The fee-setting formula is the same one used for years, the board was told by agency staffers, but recent changes described as “information and assumptions input into the model” only complicated matters.

As a result, board members asked for more time to go over, review, examine and otherwise revisit the fee model.

Going into the meeting, water officials hoped to hold a public hearing on the proposed fee increases as required by law by Feb. 9.

That date was pushed back a month.

Between now and mid-March, board members plan to take part in a special workshop which they hope will enable them to understand the modified fee model.

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