Vote YES on Measure W!

This Q & A can also be downloaded as a PDF.

What is Measure W?

A:

It is a November 2014 ballot measure that will approve issuing revenue bonds to fund the city’s purchase of our local water system infrastructure from Golden State Water Company.

Why do we want to purchase the water system?

A:
  • Under Golden State, our water bills are much higher than those in surrounding cities.
  • We would no longer be subject to Golden State’s inordinately high cost structure, their Regional Rate structure, and the ineffective control of rate increases by the Public Utilities Commission.
  • Costs and rates would be managed by locally elected officials accountable to us.
  • Our water system could not be bought by a distant, unaccountable foreign company.
  • We’d have lower water bills than with GSW; possibly right away, definitely as the bonds are paid off.

How much will it cost to buy the water system?

A:

No one knows yet. The final cost will be set by a court.

So, what DO we actually know about the cost?

A:

The appraised value is $55 million. The city estimates we could pay up to $80 million for the system without seeing an increase in our water bills. This is possible because what we save by escaping Golden State’s high cost structure can be applied to bond repayment.

So, what’s this $135 million figure I’ve been hearing about?

A:

Measure W asks for approval of up to $135 million just in case the cost is higher, or there are more incidental expenses. However, no one seriously expects it to cost that entire amount.

Will this raise taxes or add new taxes?

A:

No. Water revenue bonds are not taxes. They will be repaid by charges on our water bills, based upon our own water usage. Those who use more, pay more.

Could that revenue be used for anything else?

A:

No. It could ONLY be used to pay for the purchase of the water system. It could NOT be used for any other city enterprise.

But how are we going to run a water company?

A:

We’re not. The city has no intention of operating a water system on its own. To assure professional, competent management of the system, the city intends to partner either with a neighboring city’s water agency, or with a private contractor with proven capability.

What if the infrastructure has problems?

A:

Regardless of who owns it, we pay for upkeep. Golden State claims it has spent lots of money to maintain the infrastructure. If that is true, all is well. If not true, we do not want them to continue taking poor care of it. No matter what, it would be better to own it ourselves, so we can insure it is maintained properly. Reserve funds for handling emergencies will be included in the rate structure. Such funding has been adequate in neighboring cities that have water systems as old as ours.

Are there any other benefits?

A:

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  • We will be able to use our local water resources to the fullest and wisest extent possible.
  • Our water bills would be fully transparent; with no more mystery fees such as CARW, WRAM, MCBA, CPUC fees, or intervenor surcharges, among others.
  • Conservation and reclamation programs would be locally decided upon and controlled.
  • Decisions will be made right here, by us, in Claremont’s own best interest.
  • For a long time, water bills in Claremont have been higher than in neighboring cities and they have been increasing faster. From 2009 to 2013, our bills increased at a rate of 10% per year, while the increase was only 3% in Pomona and La Verne.
  • From 2007 to 2013, GSW earnings per share increased 100%.
  • A comparison with La Verne, which owns its own water system, shows that, although our populations are similar in size, Claremont needs to use much less imported water. In spite of this, Claremont water bills are much higher (see table below).
  • The difference in the average monthly bills in La Verne and Claremont in 2013 was $64. Multiply that by 12 months and 11,100 connections to homes and you get $8.5 million more paid in Claremont during the year.
  • If we used that $8.5 million to pay off revenue bonds instead of sending it to GSW, we could pay off a lot of bonds and not even notice. And after 30 years, we would own the system.
Comparison Claremont La Verne
Area
(square miles)
13.4 8.6
Incorporated 1907 1906

Population
(2013 estimated from 2010 census)

38,000 36,000
Water utility Private Municipal

Imported water
(5x as expensive as from wells)

About 1/3 About 2/3

Water tiers
(by usage)

3
(4 being proposed)

1
(except in drought)

Typical monthly water bill
(1” meter, 24 ccf, June 2013)

$138 $74
  • In a time of continuing and extreme drought, when increasing temperatures are expected for the foreseeable future and populations are growing, it is imperative that we have control of our water. Water should be recognized as a necessity of life rather than as a commodity on which to make a profit. A private company cannot work on this premise, but our City can. Let’s purchase the water company.

Vote “Yes” on Measure W!