Revises rules and regs for operations

At the June 15 meeting of the Fern Valley Water District, General Manager Victor Jimenez told the board he planned to announce Water Conservation Stage 2 on Monday, June 18.

“I’m making this recommendation, not because wells are showing major drops, but because of the lack of moisture this spring,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase in water usage, while we had only a quarter of the rain we had last year.”

He felt that customers had misinterpreted Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement that the drought was over. “People see Stage 1 and feel all is well,” he stated, and the directors concurred with his recommendation.

With considerably less precipitation this year, Jimenez wants to highlight the need to conserve before the water supply declines and requires conservation measures.

In policy business last Friday, the directors approved the revised “Rules and Regulations Governing Water Services” and the budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

Directors Richard Schnetzer and George Rowell have been reviewing and revising the 40-page document for several months. The only change, which the entire board made, was eliminating the catastrophic water loss section.

This had been available for customers to appeal water bills, which were in tiers 3 or 4. This usage was attributable to circumstances beyond the customer’s control and a substantially higher rate was applied to usage in these tiers.

However, the recently adopted water rates only have two tiers, and rates are based on actual usage and the cost to produce water at that volume. Customers can always appeal any decision to the board, Jimenez added.

The adopted budget projects revenues will increase about $330,000 (30 percent) more than the 2017-18 budgeted revenues. Since the rate increases were effective in January, the actual increase from the revenues collected is expected to be closer to $125,000.

Costs are projected to be $1.8 million, which will be $550,000 more than the original 2017-18 budget. This is largely for capital investments and employee benefits.

The hydrant upgrade program moved slower than expected. Much of that funding has been deferred to the 2018-19 budget. Also, Jimenez plans to install three pressure-reducing stations for $125,000. Over time, the electricity savings will exceed the cost of this equipment.

He also plans to begin work on storage tank inspections and cleaning this year. The board also approved acquiring a backhoe loader for $150,000.

The other large expenditure is $250,000 for the balance of the unfunded post-employment benefits. FVWD made a similar payment this year. The combination will eliminate the unfunded balance and result in savings from avoiding accumulated interest.

At the end of 2018-19, FVWD estimates that its current reserve balance of $1.7 million will decrease $400,000 to $1.3 million.

Schnetzer also recommended that Jimenez request that the district’s insurance providers conduct a risk assessment of the district’s operations and facilities.