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TID proposes rate hikes
Public hearing set for January 13
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No one likes to pay more - not for food, Christmas presents, irrigation water or power. The Turlock Irrigation District, however, is hoping to convince its irrigation customers that a proposed rate increase that will more than double irrigation rates for the 2015 season is necessary for the health of the district.

The district, which serves Ceres, is also looking to increase electrical rates by two percent.

A 2 percent increase in electric service rates, which will be used to address Turlock Irrigation District's forecasted revenue shortfall of $16.7 million, was the focus of a public hearing held yesterday.

The likely increase is a revision from an originally proposed five percent, which came after the water district reviewed its preliminary budget for the 2015 financial year. Due to a variety of factors, including the relicensing of Don Pedro Reservoir under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and higher labor costs, TID projected a shortfall of $16.7 million.

"Don Pedro relicensing costs are estimated at approximately $8 million from the years 2015 to 2019," said TID spokesperson Calvin Curtin in September. "Additionally, we have a workforce that is more technologically advanced, and employees with a higher skill level require a greater rate of pay."

The two percent increase would cover approximately $6 million of the projected shortfall. Other contributions that would lessen the shortfall include a Power Supply Adjustment and TID's Rate Stabilization Fund, which is money set aside by the Board.

Although TID Director Joe Alamo originally dissented against scheduling a rate hearing until they adopted the district's final budget, his fellow directors voted to move forward in September with the public hearing. This included Director Michael Frantz, who supported working through the process slowly.

TID hosted three public meetings in October in Ceres, Turlock, and Patterson to present staff recommendations and elicit the public's opinion regarding the proposed increase.

The need for an irrigation rate increase is attributed to a number of factors, including the implementation of a Water Master Plan. According to Civil Engineering Department manager Brad Koehn, the Water Master Plan will be a comprehensive guide used to assist district decisions in the future.

"This project is something the district has never done before," said Koehn. "However, a lot of what this master plan will do formally is what we have been doing informally since the creation of TID. It's just a matter of putting all the components together and modeling these different scenarios. More than ever before we are trying to look more into the future so that we can make better decisions now."

Estimated to cost $1.6 million, the plan is slated for completion in 2015.

The adjusted rate will also include the cost of the district's Lateral 8 Reservoir Project and Total Channel Control Pilot Project. These two projects will work hand in hand to help the TID conserve water by capturing spillage along the canal and delivering only the amount needed for customers.

Together these two projects are estimated to cost $5.5 million. Completion is anticipated before the next irrigation season.

In addition to the aforementioned expenditures, TID is also attributing the rate adjustment to revenue shortfall, costs of governmental relations, Senate Bill x 7-7 (Water Conservation Act of 2009), critically dry year annual collection, and the purchase of the Palm Street Operations Complex.

The proposed rate adjustment has customers in normal years, which encompass years that TID allots 48 inches of water to customers, pay $8.25 per acre foot to $17.50 per acre foot. For dry years, which include years that merit the distribution of 24 inches of water, TID proposes an increase from $15.50 per acre foot to $26.50 per acre foot.

Despite this increase, the district's irrigation rates would still remain below the average of neighboring districts in the area.

A public hearing on the proposed rate increase is scheduled for Jan. 13. Customers also have 45 days to protest the adjustment.

If the water district receives a majority written protest against the irrigation rate adjustment, the Board is legally not able to adopt the rate adjustment.

The public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Jan. 13 in the TID Board Room located at 333 E. Canal Dr. Those interested in protesting the proposed increase can send their written protest to Tami Wallenburg, Executive Secretary to the Board of Directors. All written protests must be received prior to the public hearing.

To obtain additional information about this topic, call 883-8356 or visit