2020 Sewer Rate Adjustments

2020 Sewer Rate Adjustments: Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the City considering sewer service charge adjustments?
The City is committed to fiscal sustainability and environmental protection. With the continued effects of climate change and pollution of our oceans, we all have a responsibility to do our part to keep our oceans and natural resources clean by preventing hazardous raw sewage spills. Responsible maintenance of the local sewer system protects our waterways, beaches and the residents and visitors who enjoy them   While the City is doing all it can to maintain its infrastructure some of its pipes are between 70 and 80 years old and reaching their end of useful life.  Aging pipes can cause raw sewage spills which create hazardous health and safety conditions, polluting our beaches, ocean and local waterways, potentially effecting residents and visitors alike.

Why are updated rates necessary?
Adjustments are necessary to meet State and federal regulations. Delaying necessary infrastructure upgrades and repairs only increases their cost in the long-term, which is fiscally irresponsible. Without new rates, the City risks potential liability for expensive fines resulting from failure to comply with federal or state requirements. In keeping with our City’s strong financial management and transparency, all sewer-related funds will continue to be subject to annual independent audits and can only be spent on these projects – not for other purposes. 

Who maintains the sewer system? 
The City sewer system is comprised of two components: 1) the system of pipes that collect and convey wastewater from homes, businesses and institutional uses; and the treatment plant operated by  Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM), which is an agency formed under a Joint Powers Authority between the City of Half Moon Bay, El Granada Community Services District, and Montara Water and Sanitary District.

How is the sewer system funded?
The sewer system (including the City’s portion of SAM costs) are funded by sewer service charges to residences, businesses and institutional uses.  Ninety-nine (99%) percent of the sewer system (utility) revenues is derived directly from the annual sewer service charges.  Sewer operating costs have increased substantially over the last six years.  The City’s payments to SAM have increased by 51-percent over the last four years. The rate adjustment will cover the annual fixed costs and capital maintenance needed to operate the City sewer system.

How are the rates set and by whom?
The rates are set by the City Council of the City of Half Moon Bay. The rates are set following the release of a cost of service analysis and the conducting of a public hearing and protest vote per Proposition 218 (https://www.californiataxdata.com/pdf/Proposition218.pdf). The City is finalizing the cost of service analysis and plans to release by April 3, 2020.

When did the City last adjust sewer service charges?
The City last adjusted sewer service charges on July 1, 2014.  If no adjustments are made, the sewer fund will run out of operating funds. 

How do HMB rates compare to others in San Mateo County?
City sewer service charges across-the-board are among the lowest in San Mateo County.  Today, the average single-family rate (averaged across all accounts) is approximately $830 annually or the equivalent of $69.00 per month.  Even with the anticipated increase over the next 5 years, City rates will remain at or below the County average.

sewer chart comparison

Who can I talk to if I have questions about my sewer service charges?
Half Moon Bay Public Works staff will be happy to provide information and answer questions at   650-726-7177 or by email them at: sewerrates@hmbcity.com.  Our office staff are available Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.