The Fern Valley Water District postponed its review of water rates and charges again. President Robert Krieger hopes to bring a report to the board at the June meeting.
The directors did review a proposed 2015-16 budget and also expect to adopt it at the next meeting.
The proposed budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, forecasts slightly lower revenue and a four-fold increase in the capital-improvements budget.
Total revenue is projected to be $1.024 million, $85,000 less than this year. The lower revenue estimate is entirely due to a projected 17-percent decline in water sales revenue due to the recent imposition of a Stage 3 water emergency condition. This requires mandatory, outside water-use cutbacks. Less water use will result in less revenue.
“This still may underestimate the diminishing water sales,” said General Manager Steve Erler. Despite the slight increase in water consumption this billing period (March and April), the district’s sales fell nearly $3,000 or 7.8 percent.
The capital budget will grow from almost $170,000 this year to $805,000 next year, as the district begins a major pipeline replacement project.
The operational budget will increase about $27,000, to a total of $709,000. Increases are proposed for a variety of programs. Cost of holding the election for two directors’ seats is expected to be $7,000.
Directors Trisha Clark and Richard Schnetzer both confirmed they plan to file candidacy papers for re-election.
Salaries are projected at $258,000, up 2.8 percent, and benefits increase $3,000, 2.1 percent, to $139,200. Insurance and workers’ compensation are projected to increase about $8,100.
Other increases are related to water production. For example, the power needed to pump more groundwater due to the low stream flow is projected to be $35,000, which is $5,000 more than this year. Water quality monitoring may grow $5,000 also.
Offsetting these increases is an expected $10,000 drop in cost to operate the filtration plant.
Schnetzer, chair of the Information Committee, reported that it had approved a significant upgrade to the district’s computer hardware and billing software. The $16,100 cost is slightly more than half the approved budget of $30,000 for these improvements.
Circumstances have changed since the original rate report draft, Krieger said, citing the recent state appellate decision regarding San Juan Capistrano’s tiered rates.
“[A] question as to whether we need to review our tiered rates and the relationship service charges to tiered rates,” reported Rates and Revenue Committee chair Krieger. “We may be shifting to capacity rather than multiple service and need to examine that with respect to equality to other customers.”
The rate issue will be on the FVWD’s agenda within the next two months, he added.
In water business, Erler reported well production in April supplied more than three-quarters of the district’s water, compared to about half in 2014.
The groundwater level of the district’s wells varied in April, but all are below the April 2014 levels. The office well, used for monitoring, is 4 feet below its level last year.
Total water production for the March and April period was 4.7 million gallons, about 16,800 gallons more than the same period in 2014. Since the beginning of 2015, FVWD has produced about 8.9 million gallons of water, only 3,500 gallons more than the first four months of 2014.
The district’s 12-month average water loss fell to 15.2 percent from 17.4 percent in April 2014. Erler expects that the loss will continue to fall after the expanded leak detection effort last month. More than 20 small leaks were found and repaired. Although each was tiny, their cumulative effect contributed about 10 percent to the district’s water loss, Kreiger estimated. Erler plans to complete the leak detection project this month.
“Quite a few of these leaks are on the pipeline which we plan to replace,” he said.
In other business, the board granted an easement to a customer whose deck extended into the FVWD’s right-of-way along Strawberry Creek. This was an old property and the district has granted these easements several times in the past.
At the request of another customer, their appeal for a water bill reduction was deferred to June.