mountainecho.com

June 18, 2012

Editorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:58 pm

A special district’s budget needs to be understood before someone forms an opinion on it. That is especially true of a complex district such as the Fall River Valley Community Services District Folks need to know how it is arrived at, why it is what it is, and all of the impacts pro and con.
In my estimation the CSD board was thoughtful, receptive to the audience’s concerns and worked to a solution that attempts to meet both sides’ needs as best they can. It won’t probably (at least at this time) satisfy anyone. In hard economic times it is the board’s job.
Folks have to isolate the budget issue in their minds. It has nothing to do with the other ideas, projects, hopes or dreams of the general manager, board, citizens beyond the money necessary to run the district’s normal operations. If the board pays attention, the peripheral issues will be grant funded or not funded at all.
The population of the CSD, which basically is limited to the towns of Fall River Mills and McArthur, consists of a lot of senior citizens, a lot of retired citizens, citizens on welfare or disability. The balance is made up of working class folks subject to high seasonal unemployment in the best of times.
The economy of the towns leaves a lot to be desired. Thirty years ago the business community included two grocery stores, three or four gas stations, two convenience stores, two well stocked hardware stores, a shoe store, three clothing stores, a furniture and appliance store, a printer, and two bars. Now one grocery, all but two of the gas stations, one convenience store, one hardware store, printer, furniture and appliance stores have gone by the wayside. McArthur Farm’s clothing and shoe section has taken the place of the three clothing stores and shoe store. School enrollment is dramatically down, the real estate market is still in the doldrums, the cost of gas has soared, and the national economic picture stinks.
To put it simply, money is tight.
On the other side of the picture is a district that went through several years, three managers, and two boards which, for whatever reasons, failed to keep an eye on the bottom line and on the performance of their managers during the period. In general, they failed to try to do more than repair the aging system and simply did what they had to do to stay in business.
The last “old board” left and the new board started to form. The directors were bottom line oriented and over the past few years have made tremendous strides to turn the district around and make it financially viable.
Folks ought to be aware of the fact that the reason they have not gone for an increase in rates since 2007 is that the board members knew that the people in the district were hard pressed and couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately the economy, the cost of doing business, and the infrastructure hasn’t cooperated.
As an example the CSD board didn’t put money aside for replacing old infrastructure over the years because they haven’t had it to put aside. They had to work out a deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for half a million dollars to replace sections of the main water line. A large hunk of which is a low interest loan. The nearest similar district, the Burney Water District had managed to squirrel away some money for replacements over the years. They paid for their work out of reserves and thus didn’t have to go for loans and grants.
The bottom line is that if you are a CSD customer and you want water when you turn on the faucet and you want your waste to leave your house when you flush your toilet, the CSD has to have a working system.
The budget and rate increase procedure is complex and intertwined. A lot of things have to be done and it is going to take awhile.
The board met the customer needs half-way. They authorized a budget that is 5% more than their projected income. The manager says he needs 10%. The board has spoken. The budget now goes back to the budget committee who must find a way to cut 5% out of the proposed budget. Then it goes back to the board. If the board approves it, it goes to the rate committee which recommends the amount of a rate increase. It goes back to the board and through a series of maneuvers which are in place to assure that the increase is legitimately needed, that the public is well informed, that they have had opportunities to hear about it and voice their opinions one way or the other – If you are interested go to the meetings, make constructive input when the opportunity arises, stand up and be counted. But also remember that “We don’t want no damned increase” is not constructive nor is it realistic

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