Taxpayers Group will Challenge Sewer Hike with Two Ballot Measures

The Dixon Chapter of the Solano County Taxpayers Association has voted to sponsor two ballot measures to stop a doubling of sewer rates and to roll back the rates to those in effect prior to 2006.

The taxpayers group is preparing a referendum to file if the City Council votes on March 25 to finalize the doubled rates. Once a Notice of Intent to Circulate a Petition for Referendum, the rates cannot be imposed for at least 30 days.

During those thirty days, the group must collect 900 valid signatures from registered Dixon voters. If they are successful at that, the rate hike will be on hold until the November 2014 General Election, at which the Referendum will be on the ballot. If a majority of voters support the Referendum, the rate hike can not be imposed.

The group will also circulate an Initiative Petition to repeal the monthly sewer rate hikes imposed in 2008 and those just imposed – in case the Referendum effort falls short.

Less than 400 valid signatures of registered Dixon voters are needed to qualify an Initiative, which would also be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

In 2006, the City Council passed a tripling of sewer rates to fund construction of a 7 mile long pipeline south of Dixon, to where salinity in ground water was higher than near Dixon’s waste water plant. The pipeline – promoted by then City Manager Warren Salmons - was estimated to cost $40 million. It would not have reduced the salinity or other pollutants in Dixon’s waste water.

The current rate hike attempt is to build an “activated sludge system” at a cost of $28.5 million.

It too is being promoted as a means to meet state waste water quality standards. The taxpayers group notes the state has not yet set its standards for salinity or other pollutants, and will not even complete its studies until May 2016. The state will not put its standards in place until 2018 at the earliest.

In 2006 the taxpayers group sponsored the Measure L initiative which was passed and rolled the tripled sewer fees back to just over $15 per household. While an initiative passed by the voters cannot be amended without another vote of the people – in 2008 the City Council did just that – amending Section 17.2.2 of the City Code – the section with the rolled back fees – without a vote of the people. It also simply deleted the provision in Measure L with reiterated state election law requiring the initiative to only be amended by a vote of the people.

Anyone wishing to help collect signatures on the Referendum and Initiative can volunteer by calling Mike Ceremello at 678-8575 or Tony Cook on his cell phone at (408) 509-3535. Signature collection is expected to begin shortly after the March 25 City Council meeting at which the doubled rates are on the agenda for passage.