The Idyllwild Water District’s Board of Directors approved a budget with a 3-0 vote a few days shy of its new fiscal year.

Director Steve Kunkle attended the meeting, but recused himself from voting because he benefits from the district’s programs for retirees. Director Les Gin did not attend.

The overall budget — water and sewer programs — totals $2.25 million, a $225,000 increase from last year’s budget.

The water operations will cost $1.65 million, an increase of $150,000 over last year’s budget. About half the increase will pay the salaries and benefits for staff and retiree benefits. Laboratory services, consulting and other governmental fees are the other larger increases.

The sewer programs will increase $72,000, approximately a 13%, from $525,000 to $597,000. About two-thirds of that increase is for salary and benefits. There will be other increases in electricity, laboratory services and line cleaning.

Revenue for both programs (water and sewer) is also expected to increase. Before property taxes--which will increase minimally — the water operating costs will exceed sales by nearly $240,000. However, the sewer program revenues will exceed costs by $81,000.

The property taxes will produce a net positive income of about $130,000 for the water activities and the sewer program will have a net balance of nearly $220,000.

These results do flip after the capital improvement programs are funded. Both exceed the net balances and the district said it will use reserves, which currently total about $1 million, to fund the capital projects. 

The water projects will total about $500,000. The projects will include rehabilitation of several existing wells, both vertical and horizontal. The district may also drill for new water sources and plans to replace several hundred feet of pipeline next year.

Several directors were adamant that the funding for the new well exploration also include possible costs for rehabilitation of existing wells.

Director Steve Kunkle continued to question the immediate need for skid steer equipment at an estimated cost of $93,000. He recommended that other possible equipment be included in the item, and his colleagues concurred.

“We have enough equipment to start to do water lines. If the crew gets efficient and needs it, then we will get it. This year we don’t need it,” he argued.

The board did approve General Manager Michael Creighton’s request to purchase sludge dewatering equipment for the waste treatment plant. This will help with some of the equipment and staff work. The estimated cost, however, went from $10,000 in the draft capital budget in April to $300,000 for the final approved budget. Creighton said that staff had misunderstood the equipment that would be needed when they prepared the draft budget.

After the budget approval, the board held a closed session to evaluate Creighton’s performance. After the meeting, Board President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly reported that no action was taken during the closed session.