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FPUD public hearing set for June 20 on rate increases


Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Issue 19, Volume 16.
Andrea Verdin
Staff Writer


The board of directors for the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) will conduct a public hearing on June 20 to consider the adoption of proposed water and wastewater rate changes.

At a recent board meeting, the board began reviewing the water and wastewater rate changes for the upcoming financial year, and wanted to give the public an opportunity to voice their opinions to the board.

According to FPUD general manager Brian Brady, a percentage increase of 12 to 13 percent can be anticipated by customers of the water district, and the changes would take effect on July 1.

"Approximately 85 percent of the increases can be attributed to the driving costs of imported water rates," said Brady, who stated that 99 percent of the district’s water is purchased from the San Diego County Water Authority, which in turn purchases most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Milt Davies, president of the board, stated that the original rate increase was approximated to be 14 percent, but may be as low as 10 percent.

"[The rate increases] are one of the key drivers for me in this consolidation [with Rainbow Municipal Water District]," said Davies. "We can collectively save $2 to $3 million, but not in the first year."

As imported water costs continue to escalate, the board determined it was essential to secure a local water source for Fallbrook residents, in addition to proposing a sewer capital improvement charge that will pay for the rehabilitation of the waste treatment plant.

"The plant has not had any significant work since the 1980s," said Brady, who said that the board was "very concerned about the rising external costs that the district has no control over."

Davies explained that the FPUD board is looking for ways to continue to keep costs down.

"There will be people who want to retire," said Advertisement
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Davies. "We want to help them make an exit, and there are all sorts of things that we can do. We can lower the staff size from 123 to 102. That’s where the real savings are."

Davies believes that the possible consolidation of FPUD and Rainbow Municipal Water District will bring additional savings to the ratepayers.

"[Brady] went through that with the Rancho Californian and the Santa Rosa Water Districts," said Davies. "We are looking to our neighbors to the north for the financial model that we use to keep the divisional accounting segregated. Rainbow will keep its debt and structure, and we will keep ours. We will lay the administration over the entire package; therein lies the savings."

Brady also stated that the board was able to successfully petition an addition to the agricultural discount that North County agricultural customers have been using.

"It was extended for another two years," he said. "We really appreciate the unanimous vote at the Water Authority. It was a good thing for them to decide for the San Diego County region."

Davies said that the district has held the line on the operational costs for approximately four years, but that the costs might have to increase.

"We can only do that for so long, and we want to be able to look our ratepayers in the eye and say we are doing everything we can to keep payments down and our quality up," said Davies. "Hopefully we can see some type of savings. This does not mean that our water rates will drop significantly, but it will mean that we will keep costs from being more ramped up and keep them more stable and flat."

Davies hopes that the ratepayers will reap the benefits of the coalition.

"The two general managers for the districts have really ramped up their efforts," he said. "We are very optimistic."


 

5 comments

Comment Profile ImageFallbrook Resident Since 86
Comment #1 | Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm
The tragic thing is they'll have their hearing, the board members will sit and look concerned and occasionally ask a question........................AND THEN RAISE THE RATES ANYWAY.

It's already been decided folks and this little hearing is for show.
Comment Profile ImageMyView
Comment #2 | Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm
In regards to FPUD wanting to save the customers/ratepayers money - How do the items brought up by Director McPhee (Paid advertisement on page 6 of this weeks' Village News) fit into FPUD cutting expenses? Solar energy project, sewage treatment upgrade, consulting fees for a newly created agency? I know that there are times that you have to spend some money in order to make or save money, but it seems as if the customers are being asked to pay more & more even by cutting back water consumption.

Mr. Davies indicated that staff size could be reduced from 123 to 102 employees. "That's where the real savings are." What type of jobs do those 21 employees have? If their jobs are justified, quality jobs then maybe we should keep them and just reduce the salary amounts of the higher paid, top 1%, administrative jobs? Do the lesser paid individuals work less hard than the top people? There is "fair" compensation/pay and then there is "more than fair" compensation/pay. In this day & age, people are just trying to keep their jobs so that they can pay their rent/mortgage, a trip to the market, gas for their car so they can get to work. They're not in the "more than fair" category that are still planning vacations or trying to decide what color to order for their new luxury car. Those 21 people will be out of work; not necessarily just retiring.

I can only hope that at the June 20 public hearing, the information that FPUD supplies to the customers, is honest, complete & straight forward. We should be able to trust that the information & reasons for rate increases, cost-cutting measures, etc. is true, but I can't help but be a bit cynical about the whole thing. Will the customers really be able to vote on items regarding rate increases or has it already been decided by FPUD as Comment #1 has indicated?
Comment Profile ImageFallbrook Farmer
Comment #3 | Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 8:12 am
MyView, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but NO, the customers will NOT be able to vote on the rate increases. The Board can approve the budget with the new rates or they can reject it and ask for changes. Your only input will be to go to the meeting and make a compelling argument to the board members to convince them to ask for changes. The new budget will be posted on the FPUD website before the June meeting.

I seriously doubt your idea to cut cost by reduction of the salary of the "top 1%" will work. Do the math. 1% of 123 employees amounts to just over one employee. He makes around $200k per year and has a contract. Even if he agreed to a big pay cut, your plan will not go very far to pay the salaries of the 21 jobs that you want to keep. Maybe if you could convince the GM to work for free, FPUD could keep 3 jobs. Who knows if the consolidation plan will work out, but if you show up at the next FPUD board meeting on May 21, you should get a much better understanding of the plan and what will happen to the people in the 21 jobs to be eliminated. Don't go by only what Director McPhee puts out there. His views on what goes on at FPUD are very different than most people's views that are following the situation at FPUD. I encourage everybody to read through the budget, come to the meetings, ask questions, and demand answers on why FPUD/SDCWA/MWD feel they can justify these rate increases.
Comment Profile ImageMyView
Comment #4 | Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:07 am
To Fallbrook Farmer: My last comment disappeared so I'll try again. Thanks for bursting my bubble about the possibility of
FPUD customers having a voting right! I figured that our chances were slim. Regarding the salary reductions of the top 1%. I know that such a thing (even if it was agreed upon) would only cover a couple of employees' salaries. I just mentioned the idea to point out that maybe there are other solutions to a money shortage other than cutting jobs; especiallyl if those jobs are necessary to keep FPUD doing quality work. Whenever there is not enough money, the first solutions always seem to be - Cut the number of employees (or cut their benefits) or Raise the customers' rates. When anyone asks Why? the answer is always "the costs of our expenses has increased" and that's it. I understand that prices are increasing for everyone, but maybe we need to analyze what the money is really being spent on and are those the best expenses to have. I will try to attent the FPUD meeting to get better informed. How are the proposed increased FPUD rates going to affect the Fallbrook farmers and grove owners? Is FPUD considering how the increased rates will affect the long-term agricultural life of Fallbrook or does FPUD care about whether or not the agricultural part of Fallbrook stays or disappears?
Comment Profile ImageJoe Naiman
Comment #5 | Monday, May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm
Here's the situation on whether the customers will have the right to vote on a merger. The board may place an advisory or binding measure on a ballot, although the board is not required to do so. I believe that the referendum process covers actions by a special district as well as by the state legislature, so if there are functional consolidations but no jurisdictional consolidations the referendum would be the only possible public vote. If the merger is approved by LAFCO, there will be a protest period; if sufficient signatures are collected in any of the districts to be merged there will be a public vote which will involve the entirety of the proposed consolidated territory.

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Fallbrook Village News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.

 

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