The Pine Cove Water District directors reviewed a proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins July 1. Approval of the final budget and a public hearing will be held during the June meeting.
General Manager Jerry Holldber submitted a balanced budget totaling $811,000, a reduction of $14,000 from the current year budget. While Holldber forecasts a $20,000 increase in water revenue, he is not projecting any water rate increase for next year. However although this year’s budget planned for the use of $40,000 of available carryover money, he is not planning to use any carryover funds next year.
The largest change in expenses is a $60,000 decrease for improvements. Less money is needed for main line replacement as that project tapers down. In addition, he has supplies for next year’s work.
Capital costs will grow $15,000, of which $27,000 will be for the purchase of a tractor and attachments. This is the first of a three annual payments. Holldber explained that this will produce significant savings during its life. Last year, the rental cost of similar equipment was nearly $16,000 for the installation of mainline pipe along Highway 243.
To rent this specialized equipment costs between $5,000 and $6,500 per month. The projects need about three months or more to start and complete, he told the Board in April. Elimination of these rental payments is the principal reason that the budgeted funds for the mainline replacement were lowered.
“The current tractor is about 20 years old,” Holldber told the Board. “Now if it goes down, pipeline installation comes to a halt.”
The cost for salaries and benefits is projected to increase $23,000 (5 percent) to a total of $470,000 next year. Nearly half will be for part-time crews helping with major District projects.
The proposed budget has $3,000 for conservation and rebates of water saving appliances. Marge Muir, Pine Cove resident and real estate broker, recommended that the District increase the funding for this program.
“The District is very well run, but $3,000 is too small compared to other amounts,” she argued.
In response, Holldber said that the full amount has not been used in the past several years. “We’re the only district on the Hill that gives rebates. I wish more people would take advantage of it. If we spend it, I’ll be back for more,” he replied.
Muir urged the District to do more to advertise the rebate program’s availability, including a notice on the bills.
The Board unanimously approved the purchase of the new tractor. Some of the special purpose equipment for the machinery include a hammer to break rocks, a grinder, a bucket, a blade to back fill and plow snow, and a forklift. The company has promised to train the PCWD staff on how to attach and use this specialized equipment.
Holldber related that some of the equipment such as the hammer, while not new, is virtually unused, thus saving money, as Director Lou Padula had recommended during the April discussion.
In other business, Holldber announced a review of the District’s Ordinance 4, which was originally adopted in 1957. The ordinance sets out the District’s basic operating guidelines and rules and regulations, said President Michael Esnard.
Examples of the topics contained in the Ordinance are distribution mains, service connections, and regular and temporary water service.
“It was very well done, but needs to be updated,” Holldber said explaining why he was undertaking the project. While the review may take a few months, he believes the result would be a fairer application of the rules to today’s customers.
“People get a lot of bang for their buck now, but I want that buck to be the same for everyone,” he said.
In water business, Holldber reported production of nearly 2.6 million gallons in April, which was 400,000 gallons more than last year. For the first four months of 2014, total production of 8.6 million gallons is four percent less than the total for the same period in 2013.
“Well no. 10 dropped another two feet,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me. If nothing is going into the ground, [well levels] aren’t going up. Without moisture or snow pack, they’ll continue to drop.”