Facing over $800,000 in fines from the California State Water Resource Control Board, San Juan Bautista is looking to regain its disadvantaged community (DAC) status from the state. By doing so, the city could leverage state help to upgrade its water system to become compliant.
If the city is not reclassified as a disadvantaged community, it could be required to pay the fines and improve its wastewater treatment plant without state help.
To this end, the San Juan Bautista City Council unanimously approved on Aug. 25 to contract with Applied Survey Research for $28,000 to conduct a household income survey. The city will look to be refunded if the survey concludes San Juan Bautista is a disadvantaged community.
City Manager Don Reynolds said the survey will be simply asking about the size of the household and its annual income.
The survey needs to be random and receive responses from at least 60% of residents, Reynolds said. The agenda packet states the methodology was approved by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and is expected to take five weeks.
“We don’t need to see tax returns, we don’t need to see any financial data,” Reynolds said. “It will be completely up to the head of the household to help us with the response. That’s as specific as it gets.”
According to the agenda packet, the city has been considered a disadvantaged community since the 2008 financial crisis. San Juan Bautista has not held that status since 2019 when its unemployment rate decreased from over 10% to 3.5%.
In July, San Juan Bautista’s unemployment rate was 6.9%.
Reynolds said San Juan Bautista must meet one of three criteria to be considered a disadvantaged community—an unemployment rate above 10%, having a high poverty rate or having more than 50% of households earning below the median county income.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Benito County’s median household income is $81,977 while San Juan Bautista’s is $79,375.
He said though San Juan Bautista’s unemployment rate shot up to 12% in April due to COVID-19, it fell subsequently below 10%.
The City Council first considered the contract on Aug. 18, however, only Councilman John Freeman voiced his support for the survey. Mayor Mary Edge and Councilwoman Leslie Jordan said they preferred to wait to get the updated unemployment rate.
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