Burbank smart meter

City of Burbank Marketing Associate Joe Flores shows a Smart Meter at the city's Water & Power building on Magnolia Ave. in Burbank on Wednesday, September 28, 2011. The Burbank City Council recently voted against hiking water rates. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / June 13, 2014)

The Burbank City Council voted against increasing fees for water or power this week in the latest move toward adopting a 2014-15 budget.

With a 3-2 vote, council members rejected a series of proposed rate hikes including 4.75% for water services or an additional $3.19 a month, 2.5% for refuse service and 2.5% for sewer services.

Councilman Gary Bric and Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy voted in favor of raising the utility costs.

In a separate motion, another 3-2 vote was cast in favor of rejecting a 2.9% hike for electricity with Bric and Gabel-Luddy voting against that one as well.

The Burbank Department of Water and Power buys most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District and cited rising costs as the main need to hike rates, according to a city staff report.

But Vice Mayor Bob Frutos said he didn't want to impose higher fees on residents because they have been doing their part in conserving water.

“There's a lot of folks out there that are conserving energy … you drive around and there's homes where the grass is dead because they're conserving water,” he said, adding: “People are doing so much that I just can't support this.”

Electricity rates need to go up as the city continues moving toward more sustainable power sources in line with state mandates, the city staff report read.

Mayor David Gordon said that mandate from Sacramento does not reflect the sentiments of the people of Burbank and called the order “economically unsustainable” at this time.

However, Gabel-Luddy said water rates have gone up only in the last 10 out of 20 years and commended department of water and power staff for playing a role in that.

She added that rising rates are common and not exclusive to just water and power services.

“I find the work our utilities does is done a very efficient basis, not only do they continue to meet a renewable portfolio goal, they also work to keep those rates … in a manner that overall tracks the rate of inflation,” she said.

If the rate increases were approved, $5 million and $1.12 million from electricity and water fees, respectively, would be generated to cover operating costs, said city spokesman Drew Sugars.

The proposed $155 million budget for 2014-15 will have to be tweaked to reflect paying for utilities without a rate increase before it goes to the council for adoption, said City Manager Mark Scott.

He told the council that he would meet with finance staff and department of water and power employees to discuss how to cover ongoing operations without dipping into the general fund.

“We have contracts we're still obligated to honor,” he said.

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Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.

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