The Community Services District board heard reasons why the new $12 million water treatment plant isn’t expected to be online until October at last week's meeting. In other business, the board authorized notifying ratepayers about a “worst case” rate increase of 3.76 percent for its 2015-16 budget, approved a three-year labor agreement between the CSD and Operating Engineers Union Local 3, and approved the Rancho Murieta Association’s application for an irrigation water meter at the North Gate.
Rate increase of no more than 3.76% proposed
Directors Betty Ferraro, Jerry Pasek and Paul Gumbinger voted to authorize staff to send ratepayers a notice of “worst case” rate increases proposed for water, sewer, security, drainage and trash collection services the draft 2015-16 budget. Directors Mike Martel and Mark Pecotich were not present.
The sample bill for the draft budget projects a 3.76 percent increase in the monthly bill, taking the average residential bill from $161.41 to $167.48. Rates in the actual budget could be lower, but they can’t be higher than the ones that will appear in the rate-change notice being mailed to the district’s customers, General Manager Darlene Gillum said.
Gillum began the budget discussion by saying one of this year’s budget questions is how to fund Security reserves “to repay the internal borrowing we’ve done for the North Gate project.”
The CSD has approved spending over $200,000 for equipment and other expenses for security operations at the new facility, with about $150,000 borrowed from other funds, Gillum said.
To fund security reserves, the draft budget allocates $65,040 of the estimated $528,480 in property tax revenue the district expects to receive for 2015-16, and this impacts rates for the other funds, Gillum said. In the past, all of the property tax revenue has been allocated to the administration/general fund.
The Security budget also includes $6,000 for body cameras and other equipment for patrol officers and a 5 percent salary range adjustment for represented employees.
Security is funded by a special tax with a 2 percent ceiling on annual increases. In the draft budget, security and drainage, both special taxes, increase 2 percent.
Revenue projections for the 2015-16 budget include an expected increase of $8,520, about 1.6 percent, in the Sacramento County property tax allotment; 16 new residential connections, commercial growth and the opening of the hotel planned for Murieta Gardens in April 2016.
The draft budget and sample bills are available starting on Page 220 of the meeting packet.
Water treatment plant delay
General Manager Darlene Gillum presented timelines that explain how the May completion date for a new water treatment plant morphed into the current mid-October date after Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations, reported that the water treatment plant project was continuing at full speed. “At this point, we haven’t made up time, but we haven’t lost time either,” Siebensohn told the board.
The delay in completing the plant was discussed at last month’s board meeting, when the board approved spending up to $300,000 for a temporary filtration system to provide treated water through the summer months. The temporary system will supplement the output of Plant #2, which has supplied the community’s treated water since Plant #1 was shut down last September so a larger capacity membrane-filter plant could be built in its footprint.
The first timeline, with a completion date of May 2015, was included in the bid documents. The original timetable called for a start date of mid-February, shutdown and demolition of the existing plant in July, and a 48-day commissioning process.
These are the timeline changes Gillum identified as reasons the project completion date is now Oct. 16, 2015:
Financing agreements with developers were not in place when the project was bid. Securing the agreements and financing for the project caused a three-month delay and changed the start date for the project from February to May 2014.
Funding issues delayed the release of trade contracts for the project from Feb. 27 to June 5, 2014.
Shutdown and demolition of Plant #1 occurred in September 2014 instead of July.
The allowance for the commissioning period was increased from 48 days to 69 to 80 days.
Implementation of custom stainless steel piping for the project originally scheduled for January 2015 is now scheduled for April 22, overlapping with the commission, testing and performance period.
The timeline chart presentation can be downloaded here (550 kb PDF file).
Labor agreement approved
The board approved a memorandum of agreement between the CSD and Operating Engineers Union Local 3 that runs through 2017. Represented employees — Security, plant and clerical workers — ratified the agreement earlier this month, General Manager Darlene Gillum said.
The agreement calls for wage adjustments each year, starting with 5 percent this year, then 3 percent for each of the following years. “There would be no additional COLAs added to salary ranges,” Gillum said.
Since the district’s contribution to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System on behalf of employees is being reduced, the wage increases are effectively 3 percent for the first year, then 2 percent in years two and three of the contract. By the end of the agreement, “the district would be only paying to PERS the employer’s contribution,” Gillum said. She added that salary ranges were found to be “under market” and said the wage adjustments will bring them into line.
The agreement replaces eight-step salary ranges for represented field operations and administration personnel with six steps, allowing those employees to reach the top a little faster, Gillum said. Security personnel already have a five-step salary range.
Employees advance a step in the salary range by meeting standards that require having a minimum of 100 points on their annual evaluation, Gillum said. There are also certification requirements for some job levels and pay incentives for acquiring additional certificates, she said.
Other provisions of the agreement cover medical vesting for retirees, medical coverage opt-out, vacation leave and stand-by pay.
The agreement starts on Page 197 of the meeting packet.
Conservation and water availability
Water treatment plant production was up more than 4 percent for February compared to the five-year average and up 9 percent compared to same month last year, reported Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations. Noting that “we’re heading into the fourth year of a drought,” Siebensohn said the district is complying with conservation measures for the state “based on our current irrigation schedule and district code. ... We’re doing well.”
“So we’ll continue then with the two-day-a-week (watering schedule) and going after people who are obvious wasters,” President Jerry Pasek said.
While drought indicators “are looking very bad for the entire state,” Siebensohn said, “...as to where we are with water storage, we’re doing very well. ... As of today we’re at 107 percent capacity in our reservoirs. ...” Based on historical averages, that’s enough water for about two years, but that estimate depends on variables that include usage levels, evaporation, temperatures and rainfall, he told the board.
Watering days remain Monday and Friday for Murieta North and Tuesdays and Saturdays for Murieta South, Murieta Village and the commercial areas. Watering times are limited to the hours between midnight and 10 a.m.
Information about watering times and restrictions is available here. Information about rebates the CSD offers for water-efficient appliances, toilets and drip systems is available here.
Irrigation meter approved for North Gate
The board voted to approve a request from the Rancho Murieta Association for an irrigation water meter installation at the new North Gate after General Manager Darlene Gillum said RMA had submitted a water permit application and paid fees totaling $10,377.99. Gillum said the charge covers the meter and installation costs, as well as water supply augmentation and capital improvement fees based on a water use factor of 21,732 feet, about half an acre.
Gillum explained that the landscape plan calls for a drip system that uses potable water instead of raw water from Laguna Joaquin. “Because it’s not currently a planned use (of potable water), the board needs to approve that installation and use of water,” she told the directors. “My understanding is it’s an entirely drip system and the raw water from Laguna Joaquin would have a high potential of plugging all of the drip system.”
Developer representative John Sullivan responded to a question from President Jerry Pasek about the landscaping plan by saying, “There’s 8,000 total plants going in between the first monumentation where the signage is and where the ultimate gate is.” He estimated half the plants had been installed.
Study looks at CSD reserves
The district’s first full reserve study separated the CSD into five areas, evaluated the life cycles and replacement costs for components in each, and made funding recommendations.
Derek Eckert of Association Reserves presented the executive summary for one area, the sewer department, to demonstrate how the study evaluates reserve needs. Sewer components in the study include pipelines, pumping stations, lift stations, vehicles, fencing and the wastewater treatment facility.
The CSD has about $2.8 million in sewer reserves and the study puts the fully funded reserve balance at $8.1 million. The ratio between current reserve amount and the fully funded number is 32.3 percent, which Eckert described as a “mid-range funding position.”
Eckert said the current reserve contribution is about $15,000 a month. The study recommends a sewer reserve contribution of $47,450 per month.
The reserve study notes, “Deferred maintenance and the need for a transfer of funds to reserves are common when the percent funded is below 30 percent.”
“I think it’s all well done,” said Director Paul Gumbinger of the reserve study. “I think it’s time we have something like this.”
Reserve studies are “really built to be living, breathing documents” and can be updated to reflect changes like the new water treatment plant and the North Gate, Eckert said.
The CSD is using water fund reserves and borrowing from other reserve funds for $4.3 million of the water treatment plant cost. Reserves are also being used for the CSD share of North Gate costs, about $250,000.
The reserve study begins on Page 60 of the meeting packet.