For the previous four years, Palo Alto individuals have actually been paying taxes to a water district without getting a drop of water in return.
The building tax, knownreferred to as the State Water Job tax, is among three that Palo Alto citizens pay to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the countys primary water company. The other 2 taxes pertain to the Clean Safe Creeks program that county voters accepted in 2000 and for flood control. Due to the fact that the water district is the countys primary steward of creeks and major flood-protection agency, the city does not contest either of these taxes.
The state-water-project tax is another matter. Palo Alto gets its water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, as opposed to the water district. This has actually made the tax for the water facilities challenging to swallow for city Utilities Department officials, who have long been advising the water district to revise its financing structure. The City Council is set to dive into the concern later on this month, when it holds a public discussion on the subject and then follows up with a closed session to considerto think about prospective litigation against the water district.
According to a current Utilities Department report, Palo Alto residents pay about $1.6 million in capability taxes to the district every year for the water project. At the very same time, Palo Altos water rates are going up because of the rising expense of getting water from San Francisco, which relies on the Hetch Hetchy system. That system is presently undergoing its own costly upgrade, with the city paying its share of the cost. With the cost of wholesale water on the increaseincreasing, the citys rates are expected to enhance by 12 percent once more this year, according to the most recent projections.
Provided these expenses, Palo Alto officials have said for the past 5 years that the regional residents need to not also be paying the Santa Clara Valley Water District tax to offset the expenses that should be borne by other cities. Gary Kremen, a Palo Alto citizen and the owner of Match.com who in 2013 won a seat on the water districts board of directors, is leading the charge to eliminate what he considers an unjust plan.
On Feb. 4, Kremen took his argument to a conference of the citys Utilities Advisory Commission, where he found many understanding ears.
Imagine you were living in Palo Alto and you paid your apartment taxes, but nobody permitted your children to go to JLS or Nixon or Terman (middle schools), Kremen said. Thats type of the case here. No one is permitting us to obtain water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
He kept in mind that the northern part of the county has just 14 percent of the population and were paying over 25 percent for the state water tax for water were not provided and for these de minimis benefits, which mainly associate with preservation programs.
The energies commission didnt take any formal actions, but several members were more than a little stunned to find out about the long-standing plan.
I do not knowhave no idea how I was staying in Palo Alto for all of these years and didnt understand that I was paying a tax for which I wasnt getting any concrete advantages, Commissioner James Cook stated during the Feb. 4 discussion. If its real, its entirely outrageous to me.
Palo Alto isn’t the only city facing this dilemma. Steve Jordan, a board member at the Purissima Hills Water District (which like Palo Alto gets its water from San Francisco), revealed a comparable aggravation. The Purissima district, Jordan told the energies commission, likewise shares the joy of paying the state water budget tax and not getting any water. He also kept in mind that numerous years back, when the districts requires exceeded its appropriation from the SFPUC, it asked for water from the county water district and was denied.
Jordan said that his water district would be pleased to work with Palo Altos lawyers on the problem.
State law provides the county water district the right to impose capability taxes to pay for its commitments for the water facilities. But the districts choice to use this mechanism to spend for One Hundred Percent of these commitments has actually constantly rankled authorities who believe that a minimum of some section of the costs need to be collected through the water rates. That way, its the communities that depend on the water districts water that foot the supply costs.
So far, the city has little to show for its years of problems. In 2011, Utilities Director Valerie Fong raised the issue in a letter to the district. She noted that much like the regional water district, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will certainly likewise be updating its infrastructure and expecting its consumers to pay their proportionate shares.
It is bothering to envision a scenario where the residents and companies of Palo Alto might bear a disproportionate share of the concern by paying both via propertyreal estate tax and SFPUC rates, Fong stated.
City Supervisor James Keene made a similar point last month in a letter he submitted to the water district. The Feb. 10 letter urges the district to revise its rates to address the inequities in evaluating North County taxpayers the complete expense of a system that they can not and do not use, while similarly situated South County taxpayers are excused and the rest of water customers disproportionately benefit through subsidized rates.
James Fiedler, primary operation officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, safeguarded the practice and told the commission that Palo Alto benefitstake advantage of the districts programs, even if its not a water client. One project that the district is looking at is the development of an intertie linking the Hetch Hetchy system with the water districts system on the west side of the county. This wayBy doing this, each provider would be able to work as backup for the other.
There may be some possible advantage for Palo Alto and to Purissima Hills if such a system were put in place, Fiedler said.
He stressed that the tax can only be used to spend for the districts responsibilities for water gotten from the State Water Task, a system authorized by voters in 1960. He also highlighted the districts function in recharging the countys groundwater basin and in leading water-recycling programs. The districts imported water can be utilized to recharge groundwater, decreasing the possibility of surface subsidence and ensuring that there are groundwater materials readily available for emergencies.
Palo Alto has consistently countered that it doesn’t pump groundwater from its wells and hasn’t done so given that the 1960s, when it started its arrangement with San Francisco. A current report from Jane Ratchye, assistant director at the Utilities Department, likewise emphasized that the city owns its own emergency-supply wells, including the one recently constructed at El Camino Park.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, Fiedler defended the districts use of the tax and welcomed Palo Alto authorities for conversations about recycled-water projects for which the citys funds can be made use of.
We thinkOur team believe there is a benefit that Palo Alto residents get from that tax, Fiedler told the commission. However nonetheless, our board is dedicated to having an ongoing discussion to assist cost-share the growth of recycled water in Palo Alto as a method to really provide some equalizer that helps resolve some of your concerns and stability of water use.
Keene informed the Weekly that the city has a great relationship with the water district, especially on things like flood control, clean creeks and water recycling. On Feb. 25, Keene, Mayor Karen Holman and utilities staff fulfilled with water-district officials, and there was a clear interest, Keene stated, in moving ahead with water-recycling efforts and other projects that would be of advantage to Palo Alto.
However while Keene said the conference ended favorably, there wasnt a substantive shift in the districts stance on the tax.
Its still bothersome for us that the tax levied on our citizens is for something that we don’t receive, Keene told the Weekly.