The Woodland City Council held its first vote on a change that would allow more residents to take advantage of a discount on water and sewer utility rates.
During its Jan. 17 meeting, the council voted 5-0 to approve the first reading of the rate change. The ordinance allowing the change will come before the council a second time before its final approval.
That ordinance shifts the income requirements for those eligible for the discount from a household income below $20,000 for a one-person household and $25,000 for a household of two or more, to $25,000 for a household of one to three and $34,688 for a household of four or more.
The move also changes the eligibility to strictly income-based and is not tied to age or disability
requirements. The current discount is only available for those older than 62 or those who meet the Social Security Disability Program definition of disabled.
The changes came as a request from the city council, Woodland City Administrator Peter Boyce said at the meeting.
“We didn’t just want to keep it a senior discount or a disabled discount,” Boyce said. “It was just a low-income discount.”
The ordinance for the discount’s thresholds date back to 2012, Woodland Public Works Director Tracy Coleman said. The old and new limits are based on 125% of the federal poverty level, Coleman said.
She said there have been a handful of applications for the reduced rates that did not qualify because of the current thresholds.
“With the change here, I believe that those applications would qualify,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she reached out to those applicants about the potential for the council to make the change. If it is approved, she said those who applied would receive the reductions from the day of the first application.
As to financial impacts to the city, Boyce said it is hard to estimate what the expanded discount would mean for city revenues.
“We don’t know how many folks will be eligible, and of those eligible folks, how many will apply,” Boyce said.
The city’s utility rate revenues aren’t coming in as expected based on a rate study conducted in 2020. Based on that report, the city collected about $232,000 less in water and roughly $140,000 in sewer payments than expected from 2020 to 2022, according to information provided to the council at the meeting.
“With that said, we are behind,” Boyce said. “There are a few reasons for that.”
Delays on planned increases to rates led to lower numbers than what was initially projected, he said. The past year saw the greatest differences from actual to projected, with 62% of water and nearly all of the sewer discrepancy happening in 2022 when the city council postponed utility rate increases.
Boyce added the total is based on the money the city has received, not the money that has been billed.
Even with the lower revenue, Boyce said the city could manage.
“We believe we can cover it with the current rate structure,” Boyce said.
Councilor Monte Smith asked if there would be an annual review of how the discount program works. He mentioned expanding the discount is something he pushed for in 2022.
“I’m glad it’s this year that it’s getting looked at,” Smith said.
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