Water, power bills may soon see increases

Long Beach residents may soon see a steeper bill for water and electricity costs.

The Long Beach Water Board Commission approved a 6% increase to the water-rate cost, and separately, Southern California Edison also called for a 14% increase.

The Water Department approved the increase on June 18, after conducting three hearings this year to collect input from the public.

On average, the monthly cost of a household’s water bill is $64 on average, according to the department. The 6% increase amounts to a $3.05 average increase to a family’s monthly bill.

The department’s Fiscal Year 2020 review showed that expenses were estimated to increase by 9% due to water purchasing and treatment costs.

The proposed water-rate increase “accurately reflects Long Beach Water’s costs,” commissioners stated.

The changes to the water rate will not go into effect until the Long Beach City Council approves the increase sometime in September.

Last year, the City Council approved a controversial 12% increase to water costs. According to Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony, a total of 1,443 residents contacted the city to protest the proposed rate increase.

“Next year’s budget was prepared under unusual circumstances,” Chris Garner, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department, said in a statement. “We’ve gone through every component of the budget, line-by-line, looking for creative strategies to reduce costs for our customers. The approved budget includes nearly $10 million in cost reductions and deferrals for FY 21.”

SCE’s 14% increase slated for next year won’t be implemented until a California Public Utilities Commission judge signs the proposal. Before that can happen, the CPUC is asking for input from the community.

Folks are asked to submit public comments to the CPUC’s website. There are currently hundreds of comments already posted, with most of them calling on the agency to not increase the electricity bill.

One Long Beach resident identified as Alex A. objected to the increase, citing the state’s unprecedented unemployment rate: “I don’t understand. Do you not care about the working class and lower income communities? During COVID-19, the US claims to ‘stand together’ but yet you want more money from us.”

If SCE’s proposed increase is approved, the average residential monthly bill would increase by approximately $14 in 2021, $4 in 2022 and $6 in 2023, according to the SCE.

Those interested in participating in upcoming CPUC meetings on June 30 and July 1 can call 1-800-857-1917 to listen discussion of the increase.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.