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City Council OKs water rate hike

February 8, 2012 |  2:34 pm

Utility bills will rise by about $5 a month for the average residential customer in Los Angeles, thanks to an increase in water rates approved by the City Council on Wednesday.

Officials at the Department of Water Power said the rate hikes were necessary because the utility needs to pay for $550 million in improvements to meet federal water-quality requirements.

Eight council members voted for the for the increase. But four others –- Jan Perry, Mitchell Englander, Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine -- opposed it. Zine said he voted no in part because Frederick Pickel, who was confirmed last week as the city’s first ratepayer advocate and who is tasked with scrutinizing rate hikes, has not had a chance to review the increase.

The increase to water rates is smaller than a bigger bundle of water and electric rate increases that DWP General Manager Ron Nichols began asking for last year. At the council's behest, Nichols agreed to put the bulk of those hikes on hold until the ratepayer advocate was named. But in December he said the utility could wait no longer on the water quality projects, which include covering several reservoirs and updating the DWP's water disinfecting system.

With the new rates in place, the average bill for residential users will be $45.91, compared with $40.30 in 2011-12. The average bill for small commercial businesses will be $403.91, up from $361.07 last fiscal year. The increases will go into effect in March and April.

Perry voted against the measure because she said the DWP needed to show it has cut employee costs before seeking additional rate hikes. On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that the DWP workers earn on average 40% more than other municipal workers, even those with the same job titles.

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-- Kate Linthicum at City Hall

Twitter.com/katelinthicum

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