Who bears the burden of a Yes vote on Measure P?

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In today’s Measure P: Sue Greenwald versus Ed Schroeder article the Vanguard stated,

If we take their arguments at face value, the supporters of Measure P really do not believe its passage will kill the project, then the alternative is that they oppose CBFR. That puts them in an interesting place because the alternative to CBFR is a Bartle Wells fashioned rate structure which puts heavy emphasis on meter size which means that low end water users pay a disproportionate share of the new costs.

Given the water project, there is no avoidance of higher rates. The only question is who that burden should fall on. If you follow through the yes on Measure P arguments, it becomes clear that burden in their view should fall on low end users.

How significant is the burden that the Bartle Wells fashioned rate structure puts on low end users?  The best way to illustrate that difference is to look at various use levels and compare the proportion water consumed versus the proportion of revenue paid for that water.  The graph below was produced by Robb Davis from 2011 actual use data provided to the WAC during its deliberations.  The data was extensively examined by Bartle Wells, City staff, myself and others during the WAC process, and served as the foundation of the 2013 Cost of Service Study, the Bartle Wells Rates and the CBFR rates approved by the ratepayers in the 2013 Proposition 218 Notice process.

Subsidy AnalysisThe graph above illustrates the extent which different groups of single family residence user groups are burdened (or not burdened) by Bartle Wells and/or CBFR. Robb did this in a straight-forward way by asking the proportion of water each consumption decile uses and the corresponding proportion of total costs that decile bears. If there were no subsidy (and true Proposition 218 proportionality), each decile would use and pay in the exact same proportion (consume 10% and pay 10% of the total cost among the whole single family residential class for example).

NOTE:  a decile is 10% of the total number of accounts … 1,474 accounts out of a total of 14,743 single family residential accounts).

In the graph the horizontal black lines indicate the percent of all consumption by that decile based on the data presented to the WAC.

The graph then shows the percent that each decile is projected to pay in 2013 under Bartle Wells and in 2018 under CBFR, with the red bar being Bartle Wells and the blue bar being CBFR.

What this graph shows is that under the Bartle Wells rate structure the lowest consumption decile (labeled 1 in the graph) was expected to consume only 2% of the water consumed by all single family residences, but pay 6% of the total water fee revenue. That three to one ratio stands in stark contrast to the highest consumption decile (labeled 10 in the graph), which was expected to consume 25% but pay for only 20%.

It is important to take a close look at the 6th decile (labeled 6 in the graph), where all three values are in balance, the proportional consumption (9% of total consumption), the Bartle Wells proportional payment (9% of total amount paid in 2013), and the 2018 proportional payment (9% of total amount paid in 2018).   What one observes is that the CBFR rates balance the burden much better than Bartle Wells across all ten deciles.

Lower groups will probably always pay a slightly higher proportion than they consume because they are spreading the fixed rate component of the rate structure across a significantly smaller volume of water.

This graph clearly shows the extent to which Bartle Wells produces significantly more burden on the lowest consumption users.  That brings us back to the point we made in today’s Measure P: Sue Greenwald versus Ed Schroeder article  If you follow through the yes on Measure P arguments, it becomes clear that burden in their view should fall on low end users. 

My question to the supporters of Measure P is, Why do you want to burden the low end users so heavily?  Nothing in their literature or oral arguments answers that fundamental human rights question.

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About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a member of the City's Utility Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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11 thoughts on “Who bears the burden of a Yes vote on Measure P?”

  1. dlemongello

    I would love to see this graph include the comparison of 12 month CBFR to 6 month CBFR (the rate structure that is currently set to begin if measure P fails and is shown by the turquoise bars).

  2. dlemongello

    “If we take their arguments at face value, the supporters of Measure P really do not believe its passage will kill the project, then the alternative is that they oppose CBFR. That puts them in an interesting place because the alternative to CBFR is a Bartle Wells fashioned rate structure which puts heavy emphasis on meter size which means that low end water users pay a disproportionate share of the new costs.” was a Vanguard statement, I believe therefore I meant you David.

  3. Dave Hart

    It may be true the authors and proponents of Measure P believe passage will not kill the water project, but I do believe they HOPE it will kill it. Why would they be so aggressive otherwise? I’m not aware that the Measure P committee are uniformly large users. If that were the case their campaign slogan would make more sense: Keep Rates Fair (for big users).

    1. dlemongello

      “Keep Rates Fair” is the slogan of the No on P campaign. I have already seen so much confusion about what No vs. Yes means it’s scary. Here is another example.

      1. Dave Hart

        I don’t know how old you are, but one thing I have learned over the last forty years of my conscious political life is that people who run negative campaigns usually adopt phrases that mean the opposite of what they say. In this case, Yes on Measure P Keep Rates Fair means the opposite. There is no truth-in-advertising law in politics.

        1. dlemongello

          Dave, we happen to be about the same age. I am saying that you (and I am sure many others) have it backwards. Voting no on P KEEPS something, voting yes on P says DO IT OVER.

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