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Five percent sewer fee hike approved

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Property owners from Irvine Cove to Cardinal Drive and along Laguna Canyon Road and a short segment on El Toro Road will find a five percent increase in sewer fees on their property tax bill for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

The increase is due to the hike in sewer fees approved by the City Council at the July 14 meeting. Officials said the increase was needed to provide adequate funding, maintenance, and improvements in the city’s sewage system in the wake of the November 2019 spill. Sewer user fees are included in tax bills.

About 9,700 users are included in the city’s service area. Property owners south of Cardinal Way are served by South Coast Water District. 

The increase will first show up on the tax bill received in September or October and must be paid by December 10 or a 10 percent penalty will be added to the bill. The second bill will be mailed to property owners in February and will be due no later than April 10 – with the same penalty for late payment exacted. 

City staff was instructed at the April 28 council meeting to pursue the increase in sewer fees, which requires the city to conduct a protest vote. Notices of the proposed increase were mailed in May to the property owners in the city’s service area. 

The notices included justification for the increase, the amount for each sewer user category, instructions for submitting written protests against the increase, and the time and place of the hearing at which the council would vote on the hike. Additionally, an online Zoom meeting was held on May 27 to answer questions, attended by two members of the public. 

As of July 9, the city received 16 protests against the increase. Time was allowed at the July 14 meeting for additional protests. One caller protested.