(Updated Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 11:41 a.m.)


Water and sewer customers will likely have to pay more to bring it into their homes in 2008 and more to send it on its way again.


The Hesperia City Council, in their role as the Hesperia Water District board, will vote on November 7 on a proposed rate hike for existing water and sewer customers. Two weeks later, on November 20 (bumped forward a day because of the Thanksgiving holiday), they'll vote on a rate hike for new customers. The revised rates will then be sent to customers for review.


"This is something the water district is supposed to do about every five years," said Scott Priester, Development Services Director for the city of Hesperia. "They're supposed to be self-sufficient, so whatever the cost is to provide the service, that's what the customer's supposed to be paying."


The hikes are intended to pay for rising water and operations costs. Water customers will get a fixed 4 percent cost for basic cost of operating their water meter. Beyond that, the water used will get a higher price hike. Thus, customers who use a lot of water will end up paying quite a bit for water after the hikes go into effect, while those who use relatively little water will pay much less.


Priester estimates the average customer will see a total hike of 7 percent in their water bill a year for the next three years, and then an additional 4 percent for the next three years after that.


More simply, sewer rates will be going up 7 percent a year for the next five years.


"Existing customers are not paying for growth, they are paying for what's necessary to serve them. They will be paying for part of the cost for acquiring new water," Priester said.


New customers -- in the form of builders -- will be getting their own set of price hikes.


"For future customers, we also have capital charges, capital facility charges," Priester said. "Those are, quite simply, to pay for the infrastructure to serve them. All the new pipes we have to build, all the new reservoirs we have to build."


But even if the water board votes to approve the hikes in November, customers still have their chance to stop the price increases. In both cases, the water board will simply be voting to approve the hikes presented to the customers. Under 1996's Proposition 218, customers get a voice before local government raises fees. Their ballot will come in the form of a notice sent by mail to customers and property owners, and will include an explanation of how to send a letter of protest opposing the hike.


Put simply, if 50 percent of the approximately 22,000 water district customers send back their notice, saying that they protest, plus one more customer beyond that, and the hike won't happen. If 11,001 customers of the Hesperia Water District say they won't pay a price hike, then they won't have to.


The next meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on Wednesday, November 7, at 6:30 p.m.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.