By Ginger Coleman
The last weeks of a political campaign are known as the silly season. Outrageous claims, scare tactics and misdirection push facts to the side in a desperate push for last-minute votes. The Measure F campaign is simply the latest example, but as is often the case, voters see through the smoke and make informed choices.
Passing Measure F authorizes the Town of Apple Valley to borrow up to $150 million in debt, to be repaid at an interest rate of up to 12 percent. The debt will be repaid by residents through a fee added to their existing water bill. This information comes directly from the Town of Apple Valley’s official language regarding the measure.
Measure F has been reviewed by two independent economists: John Husing, PhD, who is the Inland Empire’s most respected authority on financial issues, and Rodney T. Smith, PhD, who is one of California’s most experienced water economists. They conducted their respective analyses separately but reached the same conclusion: Measure F will increase Apple Valley water bills by at least $500 annually, and likely more than that. Their reputation and livelihood is based on the quality of their work and they both stand by their conclusions.
During my term on the Town Council, we selected individuals with varying qualifications from throughout the town to form the Blue Ribbon Water Committee. This committee’s task was to evaluate whether or not it was feasible for the town to take over the water company, and the potential effect on water rates. The committee spent many months compiling information and preparing a comprehensive report with recommendations for the Town Council.
The conclusion was that it was not feasible to purchase the water company, and that rates would not decrease. The Council chose not to proceed at that time.
When you think about it, this simple conclusion makes total sense. Repaying $150 million in debt, even at current interest rates, will cost Apple Valley more than a quarter billion dollars. Those costs are simply to purchase the system. Government will also be responsible for all the costs associated with operating and maintaining a Class A water system. The suggestion that you can pass the largest bond debt in Apple Valley history at no cost to taxpayers doesn’t pass the smell test.
The good news for Apple Valley voters is that there is proof of this fact.
In Felton, California voters went into debt to take over their local water system. They agreed to pay an extra $500 every year because government promised that they could lower water rates. The promises were immediately broken and rates have increased by 67 percent. Unfortunately for Felton residents, they cannot go back.
The $500 fee to repay the debt goes on and the rate increases are continuing.
The California Water Association commissioned a study which revealed that, in every instance of a water takeover, ratepayer costs skyrocketed.
Sadly, however, the folks supporting Measure F are claiming the opposite. They attack Liberty Utilities and make outrageous claims.
You’ll never see supporters acknowledge that Measure F is a $150 million bond we all will have to repay. They don’t say it in their official ballot arguments. They don’t say it on their campaign signs. They don’t say it on their mailers or recorded telephone calls. There’s a reason for that: They don’t trust voters with the facts.
We hope voters will vote No on Measure F. Apple Valley today benefits by having one of America’s best water providers delivering reliable service and maintaining the pipes, mains and hydrants that serve our community. Paying an extra $500 a year to repay $150 million in bond debt would put Apple Valley in a difficult financial situation.
The Town of Apple Valley would be better served by financially preparing for better opportunities for its residents, which in my opinion is good quality, higher paying jobs.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said it best when he was asked to comment on Measure F. He said, “As taxpayer advocates, we’re concerned whenever government attempts to take over a private business, using the power of eminent domain. The promises are rarely kept, and costs invariably exceed projections. Taxpayers need to be fully informed and extremely cautious.”
We agree, and that’s why we’re urging voters to vote No on Measure F. Doing so will save you at least $500 a year.
— Ginger Coleman is an Apple Valley resident and former Town Council member.