Still some questions in water consolidation
On Feb. 2 the Douglas County Board of Commissioners directed staff to come back with an ordinance that establishes water rates for a consolidated Jobs Peak, Sheridan Acres, East Valley and West Valley water enterprise fund. Those rates are significantly different from that proposed by the county staff in their Feb. 2 agenda action report.
During the BOC discussion, they failed to consider or ask the consultant any questions regarding the revenue necessary to operate the consolidated funds (systems) nor how the revenue was different from that of the county’s proposal in their agenda action sheet presented by the director of the public works. Did they make an important mistake or did they purposely not ask the obvious questions for they knew the answers?
Without any changes between the staff’s rate requests and that of consolidated option No. 2, if you extend those rates to determine the annual revenue which the four individual funds would produce under the county’s rate request and then do the same for the consolidated option No. 2 fund as commissioners directed the staff to implement, there is a very large and alarming revenue shortfall.
The rates proposed Feb. 2 by the four consolidated option No. 2 funds in two years create revenue that is $1,322,158.56 less than that proposed by the county’s proposed rates. That shortfall in revenue was not discussed nor disclosed at the meeting or in the PowerPoint presentation by the first class Washington state consultant. In fact, the section labeled revenue requirements in the consultant’s PowerPoint presentation had absolutely no revenue requirements what so ever – no costs for operations, debt service, reserve funding or depreciation, etc. That was a major omission. Was it the consultant’s major blunder or an omission that was ordered by the county?
After the meeting and my analysis was distributed that disclosed the $1,322,158.56 shortfall. I was told that it would be funded by a $6.7 million reserve fund and that after four years the rates would have to be increased by 9 percent. I was not told where that reserve fund was or what it was reserved for or what would happen if it was suddenly needed or who funded it. Not knowing of the shortfall, nobody asked if that was the proper or legal use of the undisclosed reserve monies. I was not told that the 9 percent increase was intended to replenish that reserve fund or if it would be in addition to any COLA increases implemented along the way or anything else. Never the less, that undisclosed 9 percent increase would suck the most dollars from the East Valley users as they are the largest. East Valley will once again be required to pay to bolster and reduce the rates for the other systems.
There is a gigantic lack of transparency and disclosure here. The public is being hoodwinked. The rates were artificially reduced for political reasons (there is an election in November) and in an effort to get Jobs Peak to drop their litigation which suggestion they should and have thus far refused. In fact, they were told after the commissioners action that: “I guess your litigation is now moot.”
The commissioners had better answer a lot of questions with hard numbers before they act to implement the consolidation option No. 2 which they have requested staff to return with in April. They need to come clean with the facts and figures that affect the citizens before they act. The citizens have the right to ask “What is going on here?” and demand the real answers?
Stuart Posselt is a Minden resident.