Fremont Citizens Network

Sewer Rates Increase Every Year With No Accountability

On June 24, 2013, the Board of Directors of Union Sanitary District passed an ordinance to raise sewer service rates by 5.7% for fiscal year 2014 (beginning July 1).  The rate for a single family home will be $337.76 placed on your annual property tax bill.

This is at least the 11th straight year the District has raised sewer rates.  Below are historical rates for single family homes along with the percentage increase:

2003  $188.00  

2004  $197.40  5.0%

2005  $205.30  4.0%

2006  $215.57  5.0%

2007  $228.52  6.0%

2008  $243.36  6.5%

2009  $259.18  6.5%

2010  $276.04  6.5%

2011  $289.84  5.0%

2012  $304.33  5.0%

2013  $319.55  5.0%

2014  $337.76  5.7%

2015  $357.02  5.7%  (proposed)

2016  $377.37  5.7%  (proposed)

The Union Sanitary District provides wastewater services to all of Fremont, Newark and Union City and has a publicly elected five member Board of Directors.

How many votes did each of the Board members receive in their last election?  ZERO.  All five Board members ran unopposed and, therefore, were not placed on the ballot.

Three of the five Board members have been on the Board every year of the above rate hikes.

Not being able to hold Board members accountable in an election is the fault of Fremont residents not stepping up to challenge the status quo.  However, it is difficult to hold the Board accountable even after "elections".

The District's website (http://unionsanitary.com/) fails on many levels of government transparency:

- No contact information for individual Board members or the Board as a whole

- No archive of Board agendas or minutes

- No schedule of internal Board committee meetings (Budget and Finance, Construction, etc.) that should be open to the public

- No financial reports (there is a link to a FY 2012 report but the pdf is missing more than half of the document)

 

Hopefully Fremont residents will hold the Board accountable given the many years of 5.0%+ rate hikes and the following dire financial situation of the District that ratepayers will be on the hook for:

- As of June 30, 2012, the District had debt of $47.7 million

- As of July 1, 2011, the District had an unfunded liability of post employment health benefits of $3.7 million

- As of June 30, 2011, the District had an unfunded liability of pension benefits of $16.4 million

The unfunded liabilities are significant given the District only employs about 130 people.

In 2012, the District's salaries, wages and benefits were $18.9 million for 130 employees, which amounts to over $145,000 in total compensation per employee.

If you're tired of rising sewer rates, please speak out and spread the word about the Union Sanitary District.

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Interesting that 3 of the 5 board members were initially appointed to their seats and that one of the initially elected members (Jennifer Toy) is married to Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison. Another instance of a board run by a small group of insiders because regular folks don't pay attention to local politics even though it has a huge impact on our daily lives.

I contacted the District's General Manager and Board of Directors regarding the District's lack of transparency.  I received a response from the Board 12 days after I emailed them.  They blamed the slow response time on staff even though I emailed the Board directly.  Apparently, staff reads the Board's emails then forwards it to them.  There's no current method to correspond with the Board in confidence.

I have attached the Board's response for those interested.

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