Apple Valley doesn’t want you to read the fine print

By Bryen Wright

The great Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I’ve read all the information from both sides of the Measure F debate, and have concluded that voting No is best for my family and Apple Valley.

The first thing I did was read the official materials put out by the town. The estimated cost of the acquisition of the Apple Valley Water System could amount to $150 million. Isn’t this amount nearly three times more than what government officials told their constituents when this started? And what do they have in mind with money they think will be left over? Save themselves from more deficit spending, the kind of thing a municipality with substandard financial management does? Sort of like in Flint, Michigan and Apple Valley?

Next, the official documents state: The maximum rate of interest to be paid on said indebtedness ($150 million) shall not exceed the maximum rate permitted by law, to wit, twelve percent (12%) per year. The actual rate or rates on said debt to be determined at or prior to the time it is incurred. The town keeps telling us that this isn’t real because rates today are lower, but their language says the only date that matters is when the borrowing happens. Even if they are successful at winning an eminent domain verdict, that won’t be for at least two or three years, and interest rates are already going up.

Voters should look closely at the Measure F fine print because that is the contract we all are signing if they agree to repay $150 million in debt by voting Yes. All the promises by town management stating publicly they will invest in lowering the bills or capital improvements. Which is it? Anyone would interpret this means either or. The problem with being so vague is currently we have surrounding cities not properly managing their water systems dealing with brown water, excessive pipe breakage, skimping on water testing, hidden fees/cost that residents don’t see or think of and many more issues that Apple Valley residents don’t have to deal with.

Translating official ballot language into plain Apple Valley English, here’s what Measure F is:

Measure F lets government borrow up to $150 million. Bonds would be repaid, plus interest, by ratepayers, through a new debt service fee added to your water bill. It allows government to force you to pay up to 12 percent interest (even though it should be much lower is still 100s of millions of dollars of interest only) on the $150 million, daily, weekly, monthly or semi-annually. Buried in the fine print is language that allows government to raid public funds, unrelated to water, to repay principal and interest. Apple Valley documents state they’re planning to charge expensive new water connection fees, increasing new home prices by tens of thousands of dollars.

The town says there will be no tax increases, but that is just a smoke screen. No, it is not a tax. But it is a fee each customer will have to pay — sort of like a 30-year Mello Roos that will cost each customer between $15,000 and $18,000 over the life of the bond. Money out of our pockets.

This information surprised me, because nothing coming from the supporters of Measure F discloses these facts. I then looked at research conducted by economic experts to see what they say about Measure F. I found two separate studies and read them from beginning to end.

The first one was by Dr. John Husing, a local economist who has been recognized by the Town of Apple Valley as an industry expert. He’s been doing research here since 1962.

Dr. Husing came to the following conclusion: A look at the possible water costs for each customer from a revenue bond given these circumstances shows a high probability for significant rate increases. Even if the $150 million Measure F bond level is sufficient, it could cost customers an extra $502 or $620 per year equal to $84 or $103 per bi-monthly bill. Voters should be hesitant to take such a risk.

Then, I read a second study, conducted by Dr. Rodney T. Smith, a former professor at Claremont McKenna College, who specializes in the economics, finance and public policy of water resources. He wrote, The data set forth in this paper demonstrate that if the town condemns Liberty Utilities Apple Valley by eminent domain, higher water rates for town residents are a virtual certainty for decades to come. If the goal of acquiring Liberty Utilities Apple Valley is to charge lower water rates, then the effort should be abandoned because that goal is not a feasible outcome. Dr. Smith concluded that customer water bills would increase by $538 annually if Measure F passes.

Remember my point about insanity? The reality is that every economic expert who has looked at Measure F agrees that it will cost Apple Valley families a lot more money and that the debt will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot of campaign rhetoric between now and Election Day, but none of it changes what Measure F actually does. If you vote Yes, you’re agreeing to pay at least $500 more every year on your water bill to repay $150 million in debt. That’s why our family is voting No. Measure F is debt Apple Valley doesn’t need and a debt that we cannot afford.

Bryen Wright is an Apple Valley resident who ran for Town Council in 2016.

Source: Daily Press