July 2019 Water News

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The FY20 Budget was approved 6/20/19 on a 4 yes/ 1 no vote.  I voted “no”. I share with you why

Total FY20 personnel costs will be $8,037,816., which is 25.8% of total operating spend, and an 8% increase from FY19 due to a net increase of two new positions and a 5.0% general salary increase for all staff effective July 1, 2019 due to the MOU between the District and the SFID Employees Association and managers.  My “no” vote was based on my strong concern for the long-term financial consequences of adding a net two new positions.

The District – you, our customers – has no control over the cost of imported water purchased from the San Diego Water Authority.  Because we have local rights to Lake Hodges water, resulting in lower local water costs, recent Dept. of Safety of Dams requirements to lower the storage capacity of Lake Hodges could easily result in increased transportation/storage costs to access our Lake Hodges water rights. Those possible/probable increased local water costs are currently unknown.

I have always supported the District’s long-term CIP/Capital Acquisition program which spends your monies to replace aging infrastructure, install automated meters, and carry out required and necessary improvements to the R.E. Badger water treatment plant, which is co-owned with San Dieguito Water District.

As you may recall, the Board, on a 3-2 vote, did not approve COSS water rates at the December 2018 meeting. The Board has gone back to the COSS engineers to re-evaluate water rates to bring another proposal(s) before the Board by the end of 2019.  The Rancho Santa Fe Association filed suit against the District for the manner in which the current water rates were structured in 2016 and has expressed concern about current COSS rate proposals.

We know wholesale water costs from San Diego Water Authority are increasing.  We know agreed upon salaries are increasing due to the MOU between the District and our employees, which governs the next 4 ½ years.  We know the State of California has established policies which aim to significantly decrease the amount of water citizens will be allowed to consume (purchase) in the future.  We know that current water rates make customers who consume more water pay a significantly higher percentage of personnel/pension costs.  We know that the proposed COSS water rates that were rejected at the December 2018 public hearing made customers who consume more water pay a significantly higher percentage of personnel/pension costs. It remains to be seen how the COSS consultants work through this “how are personnel/pension costs divided amongst our customers” issue in making their water rate proposals. 

Staff proposed to the Board in April they wanted to have a net increase in two positions.  There was no dialogue with the Board prior to staff’s April proposal to create two new exempt positions.  The two new positions, which are not governed by the MOU, were described in April as being “superintendent” positions.  In the June agenda the descriptions of the two new positions morphed into “superintendent/Manager” positions.  It remains to be seen if the stated salary ranges for these two new managerial positions increase before they are filled.  My instincts in April, when I read the staff proposal, was that those two job descriptions will change by adding “manager”.  They did.  My instincts are that, going forward, there will be increased salary pressure to increase those two superintendent/manager salary ranges to provide a wider salary buffer between the new superintendent/manager salary ranges and the next-in-line salary range. Time will tell.

Net two new positions.  Two additional pensions for our customers to be responsible to fund.  State of California saying we will be required to make our customers purchase less water in the future.  Previous Boards approving water rates that threw a disproportionate amount of salary/pension costs on higher consumers of water.  Where was the thoughtful discussion by the Board on the long-term financial implications of a net increase of two employees?  That is why I voted “no” on the FY20 budget.

PUC Public Safety Power Shutoff during high wind/high temperature potential wildfire conditions 

Treated water coming out of the Badger treatment plant is gravity fed to our properties.  The treatment plant has adequate generators to fully operate during SDGE power shutoff conditions.  As long as fuel trucks are able to drive to the Badger plant and replenish the generators, water service will not be interrupted.  While most customers’ irrigation controllers need electricity to activate valves, you or your gardeners can manually open and close valves if SDGE cuts power for an extended time period during hot conditions.  As I have previously suggested, sign up for the AMI Portal, if the new automated meters have been installed at your property, and keep track of your baseline irrigation usage.  That usage data will come in handy after a power outage to conveniently determine if your irrigation system is properly operating after an extended outage.  If you’re purchasing extra batteries for household lanterns, etc., make sure your irrigation controller’s battery is fresh so it doesn’t dump memory during an extended outage.

Were you schlepping “warm-up” water out to your garden four years ago? 

It’s been four years since Gov. Brown issued his Executive Order that required SFID customers to reduce water consumption by 35%.  The District instituted allocations four years ago that charged rather high financial penalties if water consumption was not reduced.  “On the Public Record” blog’s June 2015 column had the following remarks:  “I do appreciate that people will go to the trouble to carry warm-up water to their roses during a dry year.  But I believe the practice is closer to prayer or ritual than a solution.  If warm-up water calls for solution, it should be part of the building code and permanently fixed by distributed infrastructure.  When human beings are physically carrying water, we have lost our hold on modernity.”

May 2019 residential water usage clocked in at 320 r-gpcd   

The following link is an educational bar graph comparing fourth quarter 2018 water usage amongst San Diego water purveyors.  SFID came in first.  By a lot.  Dubious achievement award?

 


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