For the fiscal year 2013-14 (beginning July 1), Idyllwild Water District directors unanimously approved a $1.8 million budget, nearly $300,000 more than the fiscal year 2012-13 budget.

While water revenue and property taxes will slightly exceed operating costs, the district will need about $440,000 from reserves to carry out the capital improvement program. At the end of 2013-14, Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman estimates IWD’s water fund cash reserves will be about $1.06 million. The sales forecast includes the recently approved 12-percent rate increase.

This year, Shouman expects the operating budget for the water programs will yield a $35,000 surplus.

While some work will be done on well no. 5, nearly $500,000 of the construction program is targeted to expand the district’s water storage capacity. The 100,000-gallon Golden Rod tank has already been razed and will be replaced with a new 200,000-gallon tank. The second tank, with a 300,000-gallon capacity, will be constructed to serve the Toll Gate zone.

The largest operating cost increase is a one-time expense for training and salary for a general manager to replace Terry Lyons, who plans to retire next year. Legal expenses are projected to grow $95,000.

The sewer fund operating expenses will be about $500,000 with another $260,000 for capital improvement. Even with property taxes, sewer operations will have about a $35,000 deficit at the end of fiscal year 2013-14.

“Sewer is not covering its cost and we need a rate increase,” Shouman told the board. Even the 12-percent rate increase does not offset the sewer operations deficit.

“I’m pleased we’re starting to bring the net losses in water down and now we’re looking at sewer for the next couple of years,” responded Director John Cook, who is on the Finance Committee.

The sewer capital budget is about evenly divided between pipeline replacement and the proposed recycled-water project.

IWD is applying for state funds to construct the recycled water project. Last month, Lyons and engineering consultant Anders Wistrom met with the California Rural Water Association. In discussing the state’s decision that IWD does not qualify as a disadvantaged community, the CRWA offered to survey IWD customers to compare to the census data for the entire 92549 zip code zone. The board favored proceeding with the survey as long as the district’s expenses were very limited.

“I’m interested in the project as a potential to re-charge the water table,” said Cook. “... Do what is necessary to get qualified as a disadvantaged community.”

Supporting his colleague, Director Jim Billman added, “As long as we’re not expending money on research, going forward is only going to enhance our request.”

Qualifying as a disadvantaged community would result in substantial monetary benefits — grants rather than loans — for constructing the plant.

In water business, Lyons reported that Strawberry Creek currently has little or no flow. In May, IWD
diverted about one-third of its April diversion, which was less than half of the April 2012 diversion.

The level of Foster Lake dropped to 6 feet in May from 9.5 feet in April. “It is currently at 5.5 feet,” Lyons said. “As temperatures increase, I expect a loss of 2 feet per month. By the end of summer, we’ll have a dry lake.”

The groundwater level of the wells down stream from Foster Lake was 14 feet, down a foot from April, according to Lyons.

“When they get to 20 feet, we’ll need to consider conservation Stage 2,” Lyons advised the board. The downtown wells are only 2 feet from their trigger level of 22 feet, he added.

While water supplies are dwindling, IWD’s production grew 25 percent in May. Since January, water production is 8.1 million gallons ahead of the 2012 usage for the same period.

The meeting started with a moment of silence for recently deceased President Allan Morphett. District residents interested in filling the remainder of his term, through December 2015, should submit biographical information to the district’s office. Vice President Warren Monroe is the new IWD president.