News Flash: Crap Costs Money

Some guy from another blog got all “Juiced” up last night whining that we missed the story about the increase in OC sewer rates. No, we didn’t miss it, we simply covered other crap.

The blogs have been all in a tizzy over the increase in sewer fees, so I figured I should check out what they were complaining about before I flushed my thoughts on the topic.

Yes, the Orange County Sanitation District Board did indeed vote to raise sewer fees. The increase is a whopping $19 a year, or just under $ 1.60 a month. Wow, Crap Costs Money.

According to the rate comparison posted on the OCSD website, the fees in Orange County are lower than average for communities of similar size.

Here’s what I also found out from the OCSD website.

Who is the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD)?
OCSD is responsible for safely collecting, treating, and disposing of wastewater. Separate from the County of Orange or any city government, it is governed by a 25-member board of directors represented by a member of the board of supervisors, 3 local sewer agencies and 21 cities within our 470-square-mile service area.

What is the fee?
The sewer service fee is for the collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater (sewage). It is a fee, not a tax because it is not based on the value of the property, but upon average use of the sewerage system.

How is the fee calculated?
It is based upon the type of property.  Residential properties, including condominiums and town homes, are charged a flat rate.  Multi-family (apartment buildings including duplexes and triplexes) and mobile home parks are charged on a per unit basis.  Non-residential properties are charged a rate per thousand square feet of improvements.  The rate varies based upon the use of the property.

Why was the rate increase needed?

  • As the sixth largest wastewater treatment agency in the United States, several factors influence future costs and rates to cover them.
  • Increased costs of chemicals, managing biosolids, maintaining clean beaches, moving to additional secondary treatment, funding half of the water reclamation Ground Water Replenishment System (GWR System), and the ongoing need to replace our aging infrastructure to name a few.
  • To continue operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and maintain the reliable service you’ve come to expect, it is essential we continue investing in our facilities.
  • Additionally, these increases in the next few years will allow the District to avoid additional borrowing and debt service payments which would result in even higher rates in the future.
  • The District maintains a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that requires nearly $1.5 billion over the next ten years.  Large projects within the CIP include: 
  • Funding for the Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s largest water reclamation plant which helps convert 70 million gallons into drinking water every day.  This $490 million project joint funded with the Orange County Water District and serves as a hedge against water shortages and population growth.
  • Compliance with the Federal court consent decree requiring the District to move to full secondary treatment levels, as required by the Clean Water Act, by December 2012.  The goal of this initiative is to minimize the bacteria and solids dispersed out into the ocean.
  • Various rehabilitation projects to replace the District’s aging infrastructure, including the headworks replacement at Plant No. 2, a $260 million project.

What is the approved annual single family residence sewer fee over the next 5 years?

The proposed rates are:
2008-2009 – $201
2009-2010 – $221
2010-2011 – $244
2011-2012 – $267
2012 – 2013 – $294

The reason for the rate increase is pretty clear, Crap Costs Money to dispose of. Now I suppose we could blame the “liberals” for demanding that our crap be treated to drinking water purity before dumping it into that big blue thing to our west, but then the same people would complain about beach closures.

The Board that decided to raise the sewer rates is made up of representatives from the county and other cities and jurisdictions in the district. These representatives are among the most conservative ideologues in Orange County, why would they vote to increase fees. Well, since these same people believe for the most part that government should be run like a business, they looked at the balance sheet. They probably discovered that Crap Costs Money and not enough money is coming in to cover the costs. In a business, you pass the costs along to the consumer. That’s what they did.

Folks, Crap Costs Money! Public services like police, fire, health care, restaurant inspections, etc. all cost money.  In an environment where our property taxes don’t match our property values, thanks to Prop 13, the money has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is in fees. Now we could repeal Prop 13, or change it to allow property be taxed at its actual value, but people don’t want there property taxes to go up. I cannot find much if any waste in the OCSD budget, maybe someone else can point out where the budget can be cut to prevent the rate increase? I doubt it. So to the blowhards on the other blogs whining about the “outrageous fee increases” all I can say is if we don’t want to sit in our own crap, or swim in it at the beach, someone has got to pay for it. The simple fact is…

Crap Costs Money.

  3 comments for “News Flash: Crap Costs Money

  1. Gus Ayer
    February 29, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I’m waiting for the announcement from the directors who voted against the long-term plan to cover capital and operating costs that they will build their own sewage treatment plants in Fullerton, Anaheim, Placentia, Garden Grove, Orange, and Midway City. Those of us who live in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach would love to see the noise and constant traffic interruption caused by 2.5 billion dollars worth of construction projects shared by people in other parts of the county, as well as some compensation for the odors and the large sections of our cities that are not generating property taxes.

    If residents of these cities don’t want to pay the cost of the regional system, they can keep their crap and process it themselves.

    As an alternate Director, and someone who has followed the budget issues of the Sanitation District closely for years, let me say that directors and staff have worked extraordinarily hard to manage the balance between reserves, borrowing, rate increases and project time lines to moderate the rate increases and maximize the effectiveness of the funding.

    The critics of the fee increases don’t have any positive solutions or any realistic suggestions on how to moderate costs. They’re just showboating for the anti-tax crowd who are willing to let our infrastructure crumble or greatly increase the cost of projects with more borrowing.

  2. February 29, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Well said Gus.

    These folks have no problem using things, but these folks have a big problem paying for things.

  3. just...asking?
    February 29, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Chris and Gus you miss the point!

    The issue was not the raise in fee’s. It was how the fee’s and service was projected.

    The directors decided to increase 25% stipends to directors for their meetings.

    The directors decided to cut out staff recommended enhancements to reduce emissions to AQMD safe levels. Instead affirming their willingness to pay for a few court cases that might be brought about by increased in cancer rates! As Norby said, “I’ll get more cancer from drinking this Diet Coke than from standing next to those exhaust pipes”.

    The directors decided to cut odor emmisions created by all the additonal trucking of waste. A proposal was presented which would have reduced odor range to less than 50’! One director said, “What’s downwind? Only Costa Mesa, who cares about Costa Mesa, their not in our service district, let them sue!”

    Finally, the fee’s are based on hopeful assumptions. The directors could have kept to a more modest and shorter term hike which better matched reality. Instead they took a “spread” approach and hope their look into the crystal ball of the future is accurate for the next 5 years.

    If AQMD rules are strengthened, which staff agrees will happen. If nearby residents begin filing complaints. If counties which today literally accept our crap stop doing so, all very likely senarios, this tax/fee plan fails. If you look at projections, agency plans for a miracle in out years of no additonal project costs. History and the track record of OCSD tells us a very different story.

    This is by in large a very well run agency, they do a great job. A job that very few of us would want to perform, and they do it well. That said, we should not just roll over when they ask for money. A 61% increase is significant. The fact that is comes on our property tax forms in a fixed amount whether your family home has 1 bathroom, or 5 bathrooms a pool and a spa is not fair.

    This is a tax/fee and it is not applied fairly. I applaud those who challenged not the job of the agency, but the funding plan that was presented. Rosie should not have voted. She is brand new to the board, having replaced Steve Anderson who recently passed away. Other directors should not have forced/bagered her into re-voting. And I don’t think all those who voted against intended to open their own sanitation departments. Hopefully they voted NO to get a better fiscal plan. And yes in some years that means a bigger fee, and some years a lesser fee. These directors should pay for the decisions they make, not burden future boards with their poor fiscal and operational decisions.

    Is that too much to ask for?

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