BY LIONEL EMDE, RIPTIDE CORRESPONDENT
Pacifica city staff estimates that approximately $50 million will have to be raised to overhaul the sewer system and sewage treatment plant over the next 20 years. The money will come from ratepayers both in yearly rate increases and three new bond issuances.
A large caveat to that estimate is contained in the report: "The current financial projections, assuming that annual (sewage treatment) plant operations and maintenance do not increase significantly, show capacity for additional debt financing." Translation: Who knows if this estimate is close to the mark, and we'll borrow more money if we need to.
The report projects "modest rate increases of 1 (to) 3 percent in years 3-6 (in a twenty-year plan.)" This projection assumes lots of new bond issuances, which will put the bulk of the bill on the city's long-term balance sheet. Years 1 and 2 of the plan (and that means starting this spring of 2012 with the first rate increase noticing pursuant to Proposition 218) are projected to raise $5.1 million through a higher sewer tax. Many Pacifica residents already pay well over $1,000 per year on their property tax bills for the sewer tax, and these first increases are not spelled out in the report, either in per capita or percentage terms.
The report comes as a requirement of the consent decree settling the lawsuit between Pacifica and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. It arrived in my email box on Friday afternoon, 10 minutes before City Hall closed, and will be voted on Monday, October 24, 2011 at the Pacifica City Council meeting, with no time given for any public reaction. This conforms to a long-term pattern of critical public matters being shoved through hurriedly without adequate public debate.
In 2009, Pacifica Riptide published my article detailing this pattern of concealment of the public's business, and it was later part of a San Mateo County Grand Jury report:
CLICK HERE FOR 2009 STORY
The bond obligations being proposed in the report are as follows: $20 million bond, 25-year term at 6.5 percent interest; $11.5 million bond, 25-year term at 6.5 percent interest; $10 million loan from "State Infrastructure Bank," 30-year term at 4.5 percent interest.
The Orwellian term "smoothing" is used repeatedly in the report to assuage potential fears about how much this repairing of an aging, inadequately maintained system is going to cost. Smoothing is a term also used to minimize the taxpayers' obligations for unfunded public employee pension liabilities paid to CalPERS. Somehow, "smoothing" is supposed to take all the edges off the depletion of your pocketbook on behalf of the public debacle being acted out. Prepare for the worst, fellow citizens.