In early 2015, the San Joaquin County Flood Control and Conservation District faced a dilemma after funding expired for Water Zone No. 2. The District called on Harris to help weigh their options: stick with a benefit assessment, or switch to a property-related fee to support water planning and management, conservation, and other imperatives for the community. Harris had worked the District to establish their existing assessment which was scheduled to expire 2016.
The Harris team met with District staff on numerous occasions to discuss the legal framework of both funding mechanisms. Harris understood that changing from an assessment to a fee would require buy-in from numerous entities, including the Advisory Water Commission, Groundwater Basin Authority, and the Board Water Committee. Another critical step: gauging the opinion of key stakeholders on the effectiveness of Water Zone No. 2 and whether the change to fee-based funding would spark controversy.
Harris continued working with District staff to identify and interview more than 20 stakeholders, who confirmed that a property-related fee was indeed a viable option. Harris then drafted a water fee rate analysis, which required a thorough review of water demand rates by land use types and incorporated the cost of service requirements required by Proposition 218.
The District, along with the three main groups of stakeholders, decided to take the new fee rates to the final step: approval. The analysis was finalized and presented to the Flood Control Board, which accepted the new fee structure. Harris has continued to work County staff annually to place the new water fee on the County’s property tax roll for collection.
Harris reviewed several existing studies on water demand rates by land use types to determine potential water demand within the Zone No. 2 boundary. This allowed for the proportional allocation of cost of service based on use of the system.
In addition, the Harris team prepared and submitted the following work products to the District:
- Pros & cons analysis comparing assessments to property-related fees
- Fee rate analysis report
- PowerPoint presentation for Water Advisory and GBA meetings
- Stakeholder lists, interview questions, and analysis
- Public hearing notice
- Frequently Asked Questions information sheet
- Data submission to County Auditor-Controller
- On-going administration of the fee program
Beyond the Blueprints
Along with drafting reports and facilitating interviews, the team Harris coordinated the printing, production, and mailing of the notice and information sheet to 217,000 property owners. It was essential that the District communicate exactly how this fee helps protect the water supply for San Joaquin County residents and helps ensure the community’s economic, environmental, and social viability.