Despite an effort by residents to protest a pending water-rate increase, the Encinitas City Council on Wednesday February 24 — acting as the board of the San Dieguito Water District — voted 4-1 to approve higher water rates effective March 1.

The San Dieguito Water District encompasses the area west of El Camino Real in Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and Leucadia. Water rates are expected to increase by 14 percent in March and another 13 percent in January 2011.

Prior to the SDWD board meeting, a protest was spearheaded by the Encinitas Taxpayers Association (ETA). The ETA submitted over 1000 letters from property owners to protest the rate increases to the board of SDWD before their meeting. However, city staff said that it wasn’t enough to block the rising fees.

Plenty of residents expressed their displeasure at the meeting, saying that there was a clear conflict in having the SDWD run by the city council.

“I hereby object to the City of Encinitas and the San Dieguito Water District’s commingling of funds and jurisdiction,” wrote Lynn Marr. “Lack of an independent water district has led to abuse…”

According to the ETA, the San Dieguito Water District approved a 15 percent raise for their staff over 2008–2012. Several residents felt that implementing pay cuts to SDWD employees should have a primary consideration instead of imposing higher water rates.

Some residents believe that the rate increase was motivated by the City’s need to cover costs.

“In my view, the rate increase and rate structure are a disguised and hence illegal tax and tax increase,” wrote resident Matt Walker. “[The] City of Encinitas is shifting some of its expenses to the SDWD, which results in higher rates.”

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