As the chairwoman of the Sun City Home Owners Association Government Affairs Committee it is my privilege to be a part of SCHOA’s advocacy efforts, particularly as they relate to utility rates.
Our efforts in this area on behalf of every home and condo owner in the community are especially important given that Sun City is not a city; there is no city government addressing our needs. This commentary is intended to give a brief recent history of our efforts and some critical information on where we are today in view of EPCOR Water Co.’s request for a rate increase.
SCHOA is intervening in this rate case in which EPCOR would like to consolidate 11 water districts, thus increasing Sun City’s rates about 70%, while subsidizing rates in other districts. SCHOA officials continue to believe that the principle of cost causation should be the basis for rates and firmly oppose any forced consolidation of our district. We also support Sun City West remaining a separate district.
All rate payers in our community need to be aware and participate in opposing such action. Please write or e-mail the Arizona Corporation Commission with your opposition. Their address is 1300 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007 and their website is azcc.gov. Go to Contacts, then Utilities and you will see an e-mail option. Please reference the Dockett No. WS-01303A-20-0177 and let them know you are against the consolidation of Sun City and Sun City West water district with any other water districts.
In 2017, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved the EPCOR consolidation of five wastewater districts, including the Sun City and Sun City West districts, which resulted in a 72% increase in Sun City wastewater bills, while Sun City West saw a smaller percentage increase. Other districts saw dramatic rate decreases as a result. These changes occurred despite the fact they were not based on costs produced by each district. SCHOA has always and continues to support the principle of “cost causation;” individual district costs should determine each district’s rates. It makes no sense that Sun City customers, whose median income is $39,000, should subsidize other district customers like Anthem, whose medium income is approximately $99,000.
SCHOA, with overwhelming public support, appealed in the courts the forced consolidation of the wastewater districts. The rate payers in Sun City contributed more than $62,000 toward the legal costs of this appeal. SCHOA actually spent more than $103,000. At the end of 2019, we lost this appeal on a 2-1 ruling. However, we continue to feel that our position on this matter is valid, and we have continued the appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. Today, we are awaiting a decision on whether the Supreme Court will hear our case; we remain hopeful they will, and confident we have a strong case.
With water rates, SCHOA (and others) intervened in the last water rate case, which attempted to force consolidation of 11 Districts. The financial impact of that case to rate payers in Sun City would have been a five-year increase of more than 100%! The other 10 districts would have seen a decrease in rates; Sun City would have subsidized the other districts. Again, cost causation was not what dictated the rate increase. The administrative law judge overseeing the case held in our favor, disallowing consolidation. The corporation commissioners, however, failed to uphold the judge’s decision with a 2-2 vote, as one commissioner recused herself. An “interim” water rate was ordered by the commission, raising our rates in Sun City significantly pending a new rate case. EPCOR filed that new water rate case with the ACC in mid-2020.
Since 2008 SCHOA has, in conjunction at times with Recreation Centers of Sun City, Youngtown and PORA of Sun City West, been able to stave off forced consolidation in all but the one wastewater case. We have fought hard to keep our utility rates (water, wastewater and electric) down. We have also monitored and offered testimony on bills at the legislature that impact our community. We continue to advocate on behalf of every home and condo owner in Sun City.
SCHOA is funded by homeowner membership fees of $25 per year. Annual SCHOA membership cost is less than two months of the potential water rate increase should the 11 water districts be consolidated. If you are a member, thank you. If you are not a member, I strongly urge you to consider the value of joining us; it is a good investment in our future.
For more information or to become a member, you can visit our web site at suncityhoa.org or call 623-974-4718.
Edior’s Note: Gail Warmath is a Sun City Home Owners Association board member and Governmental Affairs Committee chairwoman.