I’m a member of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors, but am speaking only for myself on this topic. Today, I’m responding to letters from Jim Mosher and Elaine Fresco. I welcome this debate since this decision will determine if the district’s operating expenses and rate increases will continue at current trends—skyrocketing as I stated in my letter on July 2—or if we’re going to exercise fiscal restraint so that we can keep our water rates affordable for everyone.
I’m disappointed that Mr. Mosher and Ms. Fresco misrepresented my policy position on operating expenses. This is the portion of the budget used to deliver water to our community—not repair infrastructure.
Operating expenses have increased from about $5 million to $8.5 million since 2013. Water bills (for 4 units) have increased by 168% since 2013. For me, these numbers generate a lot of questions, starting with: will monthly water bills hit $200 (for 4 units) if this growth continues unrestrained?
My policy position is clear. I work for you—you pay the bills. I believe your board should exercise fiscal restraint by increasing next year’s operating expense budget by, for example, a more sustainable 3.5% instead of an explosive 7.3%. I’m not sure how a 3.5% increase represents a “cut” or is somehow “starving” the district, as Mr. Mosher claims. Especially given the rapid run-up in operating expenses since 2013. It appears that Mr. Mosher’s language is attempting to deflect you from the core business reality: we need to slow the rate of growth in operating expenses so that we can (a) direct more money to our significant capital obligations—like the CZU repairs—and (b) reduce the amount of the rate increases. In other words, if operating expenses are skyrocketing (and they are) then your water bills will also skyrocket (and they are). Since Mr. Mosher and Ms. Fresco don’t appear to be in favor of any fiscal restraint, it appears that they support these skyrocketing water bills. We should all remember this.
In addition, both Mr. Mosher and Ms. Fresco seem to be confused about the role of board members, which is to establish policy and provide oversight. Our role is not to operate the district. That is the district manager’s role. Therefore, your board can establish a policy for a sustainable rate of growth in operating expenses. It is then the manager’s job to determine how to allocate a 3.5% increase in operating expenses based on the board’s stated policies and priorities.
If you’re in favor of instructing the board and district to revisit the budget to reduce or eliminate the surcharge, then please submit your protest form before Aug. 5. Remember, in this backward voting process, not voting is the same as voting in favor of skyrocketing rates. Even if you’re undecided, there are many members in our community whose limited family budgets would be grateful for your support. Thank you.
Bob Fultz is a Boulder Creek resident. His views are his own, and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.