The City of Atwater takes a big step toward pulling itself out of a multi-million dollar deficit. Council members voted Monday night on a proposal to raise water rates, but not everyone is on board with the plan.
Officials say a big reason why they're in this financial mess is because water rates have not gone up in 20 years.
Atwater Interim City Manager and Police Chief, Frank Pietro calls it a step in the right direction. The city's water fund is $1.5 million in the hole. So officials want to hike up water rates by 150% over the next five years.
Bills would jump by 40% in 2013, and an extra 15% each year until 2017.
Atwater resident Louie Caraballo says, "Increasing it that much is just way too much."
The increase would generate $4.6 million.
Mayor Joan Faul said, "The key thing was whether we can meet our deficits that we had and still have enough reserve to take care of any wells that went down, any catastrophic things that happened to our water system."
The hurdle now is getting citizens on board. Ballots will be mailed to property owners to either approve or protest the plan.
Pietro says, "If a ballot does not come back, it's a yes vote, so we need 50 plus 1 to pass the 218 water study."
"I'm kinda disappointed but if we have to do it, they're gonna have to do it," says Caraballo.
Francisca Zamora, Atwater resident says, "I would be voting no, definitely. No, I don't think it's a good idea."
Zamora says it's already a struggle to make ends meet and she can't afford to pay another price.
"We don't want to see our city going down but I think we could sit down and look at other sources," says Zamora.
Officials say they have looked at every source, and without this rate increase the city won't survive.
"Then obviously later down the line, it's gonna be the bankruptcy and we don't wanna go there," says Pietro.
Property owners will have 20 days to mail back the ballots. If the plan is approved, the new rates will go into effect in February.
The city's sanitation fund is also more than a million dollars in debt. Officials say garbage and sewer rates could go up as well. Those plans, as well as more possible lay-off's and pay cuts, will be discussed during a meeting October 22nd.