I am increasingly dismayed by the recurring disingenuousness of our County Council.
Over the last half-century, they have continually failed to press the DPU to charge rates high enough to account for amortization of facilities, as any good business must do. As little as 1 percent higher rates over that period would have provided a substantial fund to replace the wastewater treatment plant and refurbish water and sewer lines without a significant rate increase as is now necessary.
For a number of reasons, our utility rates are and can be lower than in surrounding counties, but previous Councils, as this one argues now, have insisted that rates be kept below prudent levels. There are and have been intelligent people on our Councils and we are a county full of intelligent voters, yet this misfeasance has been allowed to persist. The end result is to foist expenses on newer residents that should have been paid for by their predecessors as the equipment and materials they made use of wore out.
Even more disturbing is the argument that the problem can be alleviated (if not solved) by avoiding pay raises for employees. This smacks of the Governor’s contention that taxes should not be raised on hard-working New Mexico families, while she seeks to reduce the income of state employees, presumably under the impression that they are either not hard-working or do not have families. The leadership of Utilities is exactly correct that, with inflation no longer negligible, pay increases are absolutely necessary to keep experienced, valuable, reliable staff. The proposed increases just barely match claimed (not real) inflation and fall below national pay increase rates.
As the richest county, per capita, in the state, we can afford many things, including reliable, high-performing utilities. Upright people will pay for what they get, although they might not always recognize what they are getting — unless it is pointed out by their political leaders.