Water district stands up to keep water rates down

SAN DIEGO — Citing financial challenges facing their customers and their own bottom lines, representatives of Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Lakeside Water District and Rainbow Municipal Water District were the only retail water agencies that voted no on the 14.7 percent increase to the San Diego County Water Authority’s 2011 untreated wholesale water rate at SDCWA’s June 24 board of directors meeting.
This significant increase to SDCWA’s water rates comes only one year after SDCWA’s board of directors approved on June 25, 2009, a rate increase of 18.1 percent. Mark Muir, OMWD’s board treasurer and representative to SDCWA’s board of directors, cast the lone dissenting vote at the time the 2009 SDCWA increase was voted upon.
A letter submitted to SDCWA by Director Mark Muir on June 24 expressed deep concern and objection regarding water wholesale cost increases totaling 47.7 percent since 2008. Muir also noted that SDCWA’s wholesale cost increase to its member agencies of $73 per acre-foot is significantly greater than Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s untreated water rate increase to SDCWA of $43 per acre-foot.
Further, OMWD’s board of directors implemented a cost-minimization program in 2009 entitled Holding the Line, including such cost-containment efforts as a reduction in staffing (six full-time employees) with additional reallocation of staff, a reduction in administrative expenses of more than 5 percent compared to fiscal year 2009 expenditures, and progressive movement on construction of its high-priority capital projects to fully leverage an advantageous bidding climate.
OMWD has also continued such other long-standing, fiscally responsible practices as requiring its employees to contribute to their own retirement package. OMWD has been careful to protect its customers from the continued focus on the bottom line; all action has been taken while maintaining current levels of service to its customers.

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