Besides a discussion of the possible rate increases, the Pine Cove Water District directors reviewed the current financial condition and authorized a possible income survey of customers last week.

After three-quarters of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, expenses of $655,000 are about $41,500 greater than the district’s revenues. However, May is when the balance of property tax revenue is received. The remaining portion of the estimated revenues is about $60,000 greater than the estimated expenses through the end of June. Also, PCWD’s cash balance at the end of May was slightly more than $250,000.

General Manager Jerry Holldber reminded the board that “more of the [Rocky Point] lease money will be in the fourth quarter.”

Speaking of the overall budget status, Holldber said, “I don’t think there are any new surprises. Each [budget] category is in good shape. There’s nothing unexpected.”

During the meeting, Holldber recommended that the board consider conducting an income study of customers. The average census data for residents of zip code 92549 is too high for PCWD to qualify for disadvantaged community status, which would help it access additional funding from state grant programs.

The Idyllwild Water District did this several years ago and found that its residents were $11,000 below the $54,000 average for the whole zip code area. At the time, this did qualify IWD for more grant and loan money for its proposed new recycled water facility, which it subsequently decided not to pursue.

“This would increase our opportunity to get grant funds; it’s not a guarantee,” Holldber stated. The survey, which would be mailed to residents, is estimated to cost between $5,000 or $6,000.

Director Diana Luther described it as a worthwhile expenditure.

In water business, PCWD customers consumed about 2.3 million gallons of water in March, which was 11 percent or nearly 300,000 gallons less than a year ago.

“This is a little less than last year, but a good step,” Holldber said. “But the water loss was 17 percent. Wow!” Two major leaks were the primary source of the lost water.

However, for the first quarter of the calendar year, total production has been 6.9 million gallons, which is 77,000 gallons or 1.1 percent less than the first quarter of 2017.

Regarding the water supply, he noted that the groundwater level of the district’s monitoring well had risen a foot since February. “The key is, water is still going through the ground,” he emphasized.

Before the meeting ended, in response to a question about the possibility of entering a Stage 2 water emergency, Holldber confirmed that he would likely make that decision and announce it at the May meeting.

“The purpose is heightened awareness,” he said. “The mandatory conservation rules do not apply.”

A Stage 2 decision is not needed because of a threat to the district’s water supply. Holldber stressed that he is not worried about running out of water, he just wants to keep customers aware of water’s dependence on weather and the need to conserve its use.

Holldber also reported that he has been discussing the water theft case with the District Attorney’s Office. An estimated 2.3 million gallons were stolen from the district and used to water an illegal cannabis grow last year. The estimated cost of water and staff work was nearly $60,000.

In September, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department arrested Joel Vargas-Hernandez of Moreno Valley for the recent water theft. He was shortly released on $52,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is schedule for May 17.

“I thought there might be some kind of proposal, but I did not receive anything,” he said. “If the DA can get a portion, that’s good. Otherwise, we have the right to sue and go to civil court for our expenses.”