Water board adopts budget calendar

   Ramona Municipal Water District directors approved a draft of the budget calendar for fiscal year 2010-11 with a public hearing and final budget adoption tentatively scheduled for May 25.

   David Barnum, the district’s chief financial officer,  told the board at its Feb. 9 meeting that the calendar was moved up about a month so that any sewer or water rate increases could be effective June 1 rather than July 1. By spreading the increases over 13 months versus 12 months, Barnum said the rates could be a little less.

   “The goal is to benefit the citizen,” he said.

   According to Barnum, the water rates will probably increase because the Metropolitan Water District is planning to charge the San Diego County Water Authority an additional 20 percent, which will then most likely be passed on to the Ramona water district. Ninety-five percent of the district’s water is imported from other places, he explained.

   With improvements needed at both the San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation Plant and the Santa Maria Sewer Service Area, sewer rates are likely to increase, depending on what plans the board approves. Any rate increase would only pertain to homeowners serviced by the particular plant. Approximately 3,800 customers are serviced by the San Vicente plant and 4,200 by the Santa Maria facilities, Barnum said.

   “The goal,” said Barnum, “is to have rate increases not spike up for specific purposes but to be able to plan on a relatively consistent trend, and we started doing that.” 

    Last year, he said, the board started a rate stabilization fund for the Santa Maria plant, putting aside money for known improvements. Barnum reminded board members that they can only set this year’s rate, not future rates.

   Barnum said they hope to do one less budget presentation this year, recalling that there were about five presentations last year.  Doing less presentations will make the process go faster, he said.

   “Staff this year anticipates this budget being a very lean budget,” said Barnum. 

Noting that last year there were reductions in operating and staff costs, Barnum said this year they want to capitalize on those savings.

   “At this level of service, we’re probably appropriately staffed,” he said.

   In other actions and discussions by the board:

   • RMWD District Engineer Tim Stanton said bids were received Feb. 2 for the construction of brine ponds at the San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation Plant. The 12 bids ranged from $1.98 million to $2.75 million. A recommendation will be brought to the next board meeting.

   • The board adopted a resolution authorizing the roll-over of the remaining balance, $1,296,142, of the RMWD’s 2005 term loan into a new five-year fixed rate loan. Barnum explained that in 2005, the State of California could not balance its budget and raided the district for the first time through Proposition 1A, holding back $2.3 million of property tax revenues from the water district.

   Instead of deferring capital improvements because of the shortfall, the water district took out a $2.3 million term loan for five years with a 10-year amortization period at a fixed rate of 4.27 percent with the ability to roll it over another five years.  He said they are able to get a similar rate with no additional costs.

   •The board approved a request for proposal for water purchase by the RMWD from the Bargar Water Treatment Plant.  Stanton said this would solicit interest by companies that would operate the Bargar plant. They would construct the plant, operate it and sell water back to the district, he explained.

   
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