YOU CONSERVE, WE RAISE RATES, YOU GET ANGRY
Editor, Times Advocate:
Valley Center Municipal Water District has been mandated by the State Water Resources Control Board to cut water deliveries by 36% compared to deliveries in 2013. Our customers, as they have done in the past, have responded very well. In the first month of the mandated cut-back, June, water deliveries were down 39%. Through the end of July 2015, the average daily production is down 43%.
Meeting, actually exceeding, the conservation target also means that revenues are dropping by that much as well. Dropping water revenues against $4.8 million in annual fixed costs from our wholesale supplier, the San Diego County Water Authority, and our relatively fixed local O&M costs doesn’t work, not in the long-term without adjusting rates.
At this point, you are probably getting all choked up about the travails of the water district as you head out to mow your dead lawn, right. Not. You say, “Hey, water guys (and water gals), you have to suffer too, so cut staff, cut salaries, cut expenses!”
That sounds good, but even with dropping water sales revenue, the District still needs to manage a domestic water system covering a 100 square mile territory and serving 26,000 people. To do that, we still need enough trained, licensed and competent people to answer your questions, process the water bills, operate the water system, or respond at 3 a.m. to fix a broken hydrant or water main.
The reality is that most of what we do has really nothing to do with the amount of water we sell in a given month or year, but is about operating, maintaining and re-investing in a water system which costs about the same irrespective of how much water we deliver. What we do is primarily about service, which means being available to investigate a no water or low water pressure problem, or funny taste/odor complaint at night or help you turn off a valve on Sunday during the Super Bowl. Finally, a lot of our effort is focused on making sure our water always meets state and federal drinking water standards or that our system can supply the fire flow to protect your home and neighborhood at any and all times.
As a public water agency, we don’t have the option to say, “due to dropping sales, we are forced to go out of business. Here are the businesses where you can pick up your own water supply.” Irrespective of how much water we sell, we still have a responsibility to serve your water needs and in order to do that we have to be financially sound for now and the long-term.
In order to remain financially sound, we will have to collect enough revenue to make that possible. Fortunately, we do have some reserves to cover an interim revenue shortfall. However, for the long-term, we will eventually need to raise rates to offset revenue losses, increased operational costs, higher costs from our wholesale suppliers, and to sustain the required level of operational readiness to reliably and safely meet your water service needs.
GARY ARANT, general manager, Valley Center Municipal Water District
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HARD TO BE DROUGHT TOLERANT
It is difficult to be “drought tolerant” when water departments continue to increase rates due to a decrease in revenue caused by their mandatory reduction of water consumption.
Equally illogical is SDG&E, they believe customers that conserve energy should pay more in fairness to those who use more energy.
Two fundamental techniques for behavior modification is reward and punishment. Governor Brown and SDG&E prefer financial punishment rather than rewarding customers for conserving resources.
There are legal requirements pertaining to the violation of a code, ordinance or law and penalties. No person can be guilty of a violation absent some form of intent. Guilt is determined by entering a plea, preponderance of evidence or proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Every person accused of violating a law is entitled to a hearing and is guaranteed certain rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments.
The issuance of a fine by a municipality that ignores the aforementioned requirements usurps the accused individual’s right to Due Process.
This is the equivalent of an officer accusing you of a traffic violation and demanding you pay a predetermined fine thus denying you the right to plead your case at a hearing.
RICHARD MOKER, Valley Center
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LOOK FORWARD TO COLUMN
I just want you to know how much my husband and I appreciate the articles by Phyllis Knight. We look forward to them each time they are in the paper. Please continue to publish her writings.
LINDA HANSON, Escondido
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“BOLD, TRUTHFUL AND WISE”
I’ve been enjoying Phyllis Knight’s inspiring articles in your newspaper! Please keep her writing her bold, truthful and wise articles that reach the hearts of many of us living in Escondido. She has every right to express her beliefs, as others also have the right to disagree and express their beliefs.
Please see that Phyllis sees this to encourage her to continue to speak her beliefs and not be discouraged if any try to hush her up or put her down.
SUSAN CLYNE, Hidden Meadows.
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PARKS FUNDING: DON’T RAISE TAXES
The article in the July 30th Times Advocate about the Parks & Recreation Board considering a Benefits Assessment (aka tax) due to lack of funds prompted this Letter to the Editor. The Parks & Recreation District is important for Valley Center and it can well use additional funds, but increased taxes or assessments are unnecessary.
In my view development consistent with the Valley Center Community Plan is the answer combined with asking people to contribute. For example, my Butterfield Trails Ranch project of 71 homes is required to pay the following fees that directly benefit needed facilities and services: $3,800 per house ($269,800 total) to Parks & Recreation. $3.21 per sq. ft. of house is paid to schools.
For an average house size of 3,200 sq. ft., that is $10,272 per house ($729,312 total). This million dollars is paid before construction. Also, $270,000 is paid up front for traffic, albeit the cash goes to the County that maintains the roads. Initial and annual fees are paid to the Valley Center Fire District. Yes, these fees are aimed at the increased use by residents of the project, but the dollar amounts far exceed that factor and thus benefit the community as a whole.
The July 30th Times Advocate also included a front page photo of the VC Optimists presenting a $2,000 check to the Parks Board. This is admirable, should be praised and highlighted, and serve to encourage other groups and individuals to contribute needed cash. And yet, respectfully, it doesn’t compare to the $269,800 that will come from Butterfield Trails Ranch.
I am not seeking compliments; I am just pointing out where large solutions to the funding problem will come from. The good people of Valley Center will contribute if they are asked and understand the need. The VC History Museum is an excellent example. It raised a lot of money by asking people to support the museum’s endowment and expansion funds. I do not know the fees for commercial projects, but they are significant. I do know many, many residents want the travel saving convenience of a supermarket and other services. For any of you who think projects like mine (that took 13 years and tons of money to process) yield huge profits and hence the fees are no big deal, consider this old saying that contains more truth than humor: “Know how to get $1 million dollars in real estate? Invest $2 million.”
WAYNE HILBIG, Valley Center
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CONFUSING TWO LILAC PROJECTS
In recent weeks, the Valley Center Historical Society has received what we consider to be an unusual number of inquiries regarding a property with the word “Lilac” in its name.
There appears to be confusion with the historic Rancho Lilac (aka Lilac Ranch), a 1,000-acre cattle ranch developed in 1865 on Lilac Road, and a proposed 1,700-home development called Lilac Hills Ranch, a 600-acre parcel (not a ranch) at the far western edge of Valley Center.
The historic Lilac Ranch is to be preserved in its natural state, and will be operated by a non-profit conservation organization to be selected within the next few months. The Valley Center Historical Society has agree to serve as the “assignee” (overseer) of this property which was formerly owned by United Nations Ambassador Irving Salomon who hosted many world leaders at his rustic home, among them First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Dwight Eisenhower.
The History Museum maintains a full archive on the historic property.
ROBERT LERNER, historian, Valley Center
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