“I want to know who paid to put out that fire . . . I heard that they were pumping 18,000 gallons to put it out in a minute,” he said.
Council members discussed the pros and cons of raising the water rates after hearing from 12 residents.
“I think we should take a step back from doing feel-good projects for the city, so we can hold off on raising our fees,” said Councilman David Gordon, who cast the lone vote in opposition to the budget because of the spike in water rate fees. “We need to consider the impacts on the residents of our city. I think we have the resources to avoid imposing these fee increases when people are facing high prices in food and rent.”
A one-time fund should be allocated from city resources to make up for the water rate increases as well as proposed sewage and refuse rates, which are also up a combined 14%, he said. Councilwoman Anja Reinke said that although she disliked raising fees, increases were necessary to support the city.
“This is a business, and businesses have to make ends meet,” said Reinke, who voted in favor of the budget. “I would like to pay everyone’s utility fees, but that is not practical.”
Mayor Dave Golonski said offsetting costs would come back to hurt the city’s budget moving forward.
“The reason our rates are being increased is because the council made a choice in the past to make a political statement and lower water rates,” he said. “I think your suggestion is irresponsible.”
The rate increase comes after an ongoing debate in Burbank about how to best address water shortages.
In February, the council voted 4-1 to support a water reduction plan to cut back on supply delivered by the Metropolitan Water Supply District of Southern California.
Three main factors have contributed to drought-like conditions in the state: Low levels of snow packed in the Colorado Basin and Sierra Nevada; a record drought in the Colorado River area; and a federal court case that has led to water being siphoned off from the Sacramento River/San Joaquin Delta.
Although the water rates appear severe, they are modest compared with other cities in Los Angeles County, Golonski said.
“These increases are the second lowest in comparison to the cities around Burbank,” he said. “We spend our money in a responsible way, and I am proud to support this budget.”
The council will vote Tuesday on its $728,654,300 budget for fiscal year 2008-09.
ALISON TULLY covers City Hall and public safety. She may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at alison.tully@ latimes.com.