Rate Setting Process

    FY 2013-14 Proposition 218 Notices

    The following Proposition 218 Notices and Sanitation Newsletters were sent to ratepayers on March 28, 2013.

    FY 2012-13 Budget and Rates Approved

    Fiscal Year 2012-13 sanitation rates were approved on May 22, 2012 by the Board of Directors of the Geyserville, Penngrove, Sea Ranch and Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup sanitation zones, and the Occidental, Russian River, Sonoma Valley and South Park county sanitation districts. The average cost of wastewater services remains approximately half of the average cost of other househould utiltiies, such as television cable and internet and electricity/gas.

    The rates reflect ongoing efforts to improve aging wastewater collection systems and treatment facilities, while ensuring financial stability for all sanitation districts and zones.

    Read the staff report and presentation.

    Prop. 218 Notices, 2012-2013

    Fiscal Year 2012-13 sanitation rate increase notices, otherwise known as Proposition 218 notices, were mailed to ratepayers in the Geyserville, Penngrove, Sea Ranch and Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup sanitation zones, and to the Occidental, Russian River, Sonoma Valley and South Park county sanitation districts.  Ratepayers are allowed 45 days to protest the proposed rate increases before a May 22, 2012 public rate hearing is held at 10:00 a.m. at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers at 575 Administration Drive, Room 102A, Santa Rosa, CA.

    The Budget Process

    The fiscal year of the sanitation districts and zones starts on July 1st of each year and runs through June 30th of the following year.  The budgets are prepared approximately six months in advance of the period they cover so that there is ample opportunity for public input and to allow the required review and approval process to take place.

    Public input is a continuous process and can occur at any time during the year. Specific maintenance and construction projects and priorities are regularly reviewed and revised by staff. Many of these projects have their own environmental and construction approval process which includes public inputs.

    A five year capital plan is prepared for the district or zone by the staff based on the need for replacement of aging collection systems and other assets necessary to process the waste water according to regulatory requirements.

    Priorities for projects are assigned taking public inputs, maintenance data, and assessment of the current condition of the facilities into account.  The funds available for capital improvements and replacement are then planned for in such a way as to level the expenditures from year to year and thus to reduce the impact that sharp increases in rates would have on the rate payers.

    Budgets also take into account current maintenance and operations costs, any bond or loan repayments, and the need to maintain sufficient financial reserves to cover unexpected damage or system failures.  Budgets are developed using estimates for both these items and for revenues.  Because of the uneven timing of the revenues paid to the district and because actual costs rarely turn out exactly equal to our estimates, fund balances or retained earnings are kept at all times.  These fund balances typically amount to three to six months of operating expenses.

    Budget Approval

    Once staff has developed the proposed budgets and rates, the budgets are sent to libraries around the county and are available for public review at those locations and at the Sonoma County Water Agency.  This typically happens at the end of February each year.  Notices of the proposed rate are also sent to the owners of all the properties in the district at that time.  The public can protest rate increases up to the date of the rate hearings, which are typically held in mid-April at the Board of Supervisors chambers.

    Where the Money Comes From

    The primary source of revenues are the fees charged to district rate payers and collected on the property tax bills sent out by the County Assessor.  Other sources of revenue include interest on fund balances and fees charged for new connections.  Proceeds from bonds and debt paid through property assessments may increase the funds available to spend on capital projects but are not counted as revenue to the district.

    Where the Money Goes

    The district spends money to operate the waste water collection and treatment facilities, to maintain and repair district facilities, and to repay bond, other debt and miscellaneous liabilities which may occur as a result of operation. The district also spends money to accomplish the capital projects needed in the district.

    View Sanitation Budgets