On August 2, 2023, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve changes to the drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater rate structure for customers in San Juan Capistrano.
“The cost of doing nothing puts our community in a dangerous situation,” said SMWD Board President Frank Ury. “Infrastructure throughout the City is in desperate need of repair.”
Recognizing the impact that rate adjustments have on customers, the Board of Directors also approved a customer assistance program for residential customers. The new rate structure goes into effect on August 3rd and will appear in the September bills with a portion of the capital charges to appear on property tax bills.
Rates in San Juan Capistrano have not changed since 2018. The adjustments bring the rates in San Juan Capistrano closer to what neighboring communities pay, but they are still less than what many other communities have incurred over the last several years.
“We appreciate the community’s support of the work being done around town and are thankful for the residents that have voiced their support of the needed rate adjustments,” Ury said.
In general, San Juan Capistrano residents will see an increase of up to $30 per month in their monthly water and wastewater bills. Residential customers may check their specific impacts by using the rate calculator located on the District’s website at www.smwd.com/SJC. Commercial customers with a fire meter will see an average increase of 31% on their monthly water and wastewater bills. Commercial fire meter rates were approved without the $1.5 million capital charge to reduce the customer impact.
“This rate restructure is an important step to bring the San Juan Capistrano rate structure in line with costs,” said Director Laura Freese. “This allows us to continue to make improvements to critical infrastructure to ensure reliable and sustainable services.” The District plans for rate increases in San Juan Capistrano at a measured pace over the next several years.
Over the past nine months, the District conducted a comprehensive cost-of-service study to determine the rates necessary to cover the cost of providing services, as required by the California Constitution (Proposition 218). The rate study showed that the current rates are not adequate to cover operational costs and the significant capital and infrastructure investments needed in San Juan Capistrano. Each dollar charged to customers is directly linked to the cost of providing reliable drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater services. The District held a public hearing on July 12th and kept it open through August 2nd to allow customers to provide in-person feedback on the rate restructure.
Santa Margarita Water District became San Juan Capistrano’s water and wastewater service provider in November 2021. The District has already invested over $7 million in improvements to the system infrastructure with another $40 million in planning for the next five years.