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Election 2010: Sacramento's Measure B Would Roll Back Utility Rate Hikes

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When the Sacramento City Council increased the city's utility rates in June of last year, it did so over the objections of Craig Powell with the Sacramento County Taxpayers League.  So he wrote and funded Measure B, which he says will do three things:

Powell: "It'll cancel the latest 9.2 percent hike in city utility rates.  It'll freeze rates for one year.  And it will limit the city council from increasing rates in the future up to annual increases in inflation.  And if they want hikes above that, they gotta go to the voters for approval."

Powell is making his case for Measure B by pointing to findings by the Sacramento County Grand Jury. Their report accuses the city of using ratepayer funds to fund general city services - a violation of state law.

But some of the city's elected officials and unions that represent city employees worry about how that loss of revenue could impact police, fire and other services.  The city says Measure B would cut up to $22 million from the Utilities Department and an extra $1-2 million from Sacramento's general fund.  Mark Tyndale is with the Sacramento Police Officers Association.

Tyndale: "At this point, with the budget as tight as it is, we feel like we've cut every place that we can, and there's just no more places to cut from public safety - especially the police department."

And while the city's non-elected officials can't argue for or against Measure B, they haven't been shy about discussing its impacts.  Here's Assistant City Manager Patti Bisharat:

Bisharat: "The average citizen may see delays in response to their request for help if there's a broken pipe or a sewage backup or something of that nature."

The Taxpayers League calls those responses "scare tactics" and says it's identified several ways the city could make ends meet without the latest round of rate hikes.  Measure B needs a majority vote to pass.

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