[Updated June 23] The Rancho Murieta Community Services District board of directors approved a 2008-2009 budget and rate increases for water, sewer, security, drainage and garbage collection Monday night that will increase the average monthly residential bill 18.8 percent. The average bill will go from $114.44 to $135.96 when the new rates take effect next month.
General Manager Ed Crouse gave a presentation on the 2008-2009 budget at last week's meeting of the CSD board.
The board reduced an anticipated 20.5 percent "worst case" increase by deciding to reimburse $600,000 in reserves over a 10-year period instead of five. The CSD used the reserve funds to meet the requirements of a cease and desist order a regulatory agency issued in 2006.
The 189 residents of Murieta Village face a steeper hike of 30.5 percent, with the average monthly bill going from $77.11 to $100.63. The Village has historically paid a lower sewer rate than other residential users, but state law doesn't allow reduced charges "unless there is a true lower cost of service," according to a letter the CSD sent to ratepayers in April with proposed rate changes.
At Monday's meeting, Director Jerry Pasek said instituting "usage-based" pricing would have the effect of reducing water rates for the Village and the Villas. Director Bobbi Belton said Pasek was referring to conservation pricing, and added she would like to have the pricing in place by January.
The board held a series of workshops on conservation pricing this year. The goal is to conserve water by charging more for higher levels of usage.
The CSD attributes the rate increases to a lack of growth and declining property tax revenue coupled with rising costs for power, fuel, wages and employer costs.
The County of Sacramento has informed the CSD that property tax revenue will be reduced $50,000, and developers have put off building plans until 2012 or 2014.
General Manager Ed Crouse made a formal presentation of the budget at the June 18 board meeting and answered questions from several audience members about budget items for workers' compensation insurance and salaries.
The district's total annual premium for workers' compensation coverage increased from $72,000 to $122,000.
The increase was the result of a series of work-related injuries -- "small, but lingering" -- that occurred over the last couple years, Crouse said, adding that the district has weekly safety meetings for security and water staff. He said the CSD's insurance coverage is provided by Special Districts Risk Management Authority -- "it's a pool of special districts. They have been competitive and lot lower than private workers' comp."
Crouse said wage increases of 6 to 12 percent and step increases represent an effort to bring salaries for water and wastewater personnel closer to comparable districts in the area over the course of the current three-year contract as well as reduce turnover. Crouse said other districts were paying an average of 30 percent more. "We also did a salary survey for Admin and Security, and found that they were low on that order of magnitude," he said.
Budget in brief
- The monthly security tax would increase 14 percent, going from $21 to $23.89 for residents behind the gates. No additional patrol officer position is proposed, but the use of off-duty sheriff's deputies for patrol will be increased by about 50 percent.
- Two recommendations from an operations audit of the wastewater treatment plant are included in the budget. The audit recommends adding an employee and providing training to optimize plant operations. The training is $50,000 and an additional plant operator is about $75,000, with wages and employer costs.
- Board members have expressed support for an aggressive approach to restoring the district's replacement reserves. The sewer rate increase would repay $600,000 to reserves for costs related to the cease and desist order issued by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.
- In addition, the proposed rates will restore the full contribution for water and sewer replacement reserves. The contribution was cut to 50 percent during the two years the state diverted 80 percent of the district's share of property taxes, and restored to 75 percent last year.
- Director Dick Taylor suggested the CSD collect reimbursement next year for $42,000 the district spent for the preparation of the environmental document for the pedestrian bridge. The CSD prepared the document when it served as lead agency for the project at the request of the Rancho Murieta Association. The district postponed repayment from the parks fund until 2009 when it was thought there would be more money in the fund. Contributions to the fund are triggered by new development.
- Director Bobbi Belton suggested reducing the number of issues of "Pipeline," the publication the district publishes for ratepayers, from four to three a year as a cost-saving measure.
- Last month, on a split vote, the board approved reducing the number of days of service for which directors receive a $100 stipend from a maximum of five a month to three as to cut costs. Wayne Kuntz and Dick Taylor voted against the measure.
- The Water Department reduced the cost of quarterly groundwater monitoring required by a regulatory agency by taking samples from the monitoring wells and transporting them to the lab for analysis. A consultant prepares the quarterly reports.
- The board approved a contract amendment at last week's meeting that increases garbage collection costs by 3.5 percent.
Previous coverage of the 2008-2009 CSD budget is available here: