Clovis News

Clovis, Hanford water rates will rise

Starting Jan. 1, water and storm drain bills will get pricier for residents in Clovis and Hanford.

Clovis water rates will rise 20%, the first of a series of water rate hikes.

The next rate hike is 15% in July, followed by another 15% increase in July 2011 and a 5% increase in July 2012.

Households that use 17,000 gallons monthly - the city average - will see their bills climb from $17.48 to $20.81. When the increases end in 2012, the average monthly rate will be $28.92. Rate payers are billed every other month.

The increase will bolster the city's water enterprise fund, which pays off the cost of bonds and - because of slower new home construction - is in danger of falling below where it needs to be. The bonds pay for the city's water-treatment plant.

With fewer homes being built, there are fewer rate payers to share costs, but the city still has to pay off $44.3 million in bonds for the plant, canal upgrades, a water-banking project and water lines, city officials said.

Facing a similar problem and debt on sewer improvements, Hanford residents will see a 6% rate hike on their first utility bill this year.

Two more 6% increases will occur in the next two Julys.

Up to now, residents paid $19.35 monthly; their new bill will climb to $20.39 starting today and to $22.91 when the final increase is in place.

Tom Dibble, Hanford's finance director, said the city needed to raise sewer fees because it was in danger of falling below its fund requirements for sewage improvements.

In recent years, the city used developer fees to help pay down the debt, but when development fell short of city forecasts, the city had to ask residents to make up the difference.