Protest JBWD rate increase; erroneous assumptions were used in study - Hi-Desert Star: Letters To Editor

Protest JBWD rate increase; erroneous assumptions were used in study

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Posted: Wednesday, February 7, 2018 6:31 pm

The Joshua Basin Water District assumed a $2.5 million cost to replace the existing water meters and electronic sending units. I believe the cost should be about $800,000. Details: Twentynine Palms Water District is studying installing new water meters and electronic sending units for its 8,000 customers at a cost of $1.2 million. JBWD has approximately 4,555 active meters and 832 inactive accounts (many without any meters). If JBWD installed 5,387 meters, then their cost should be slightly over two-thirds of Twentynine Palms’ cost, or about $800,000.

Using $800,000 instead of $2.5 million assumptions results in a $373 savings per active meter over the studies’ five years. That’s equivalent to the price of a package of ramen noodles (i.e. a meal) every other day.

JBWD’s operating cost exceeded the Twentynine Palms Water District’s cost by over $500,000 per year. Why is JBWD’s office/administration staff cost about $350,000 higher than Twentynine Palms’ cost and why is JBWD’s field cost about $160,000 higher than Twentynine Palms? Twentynine Palms has about 1.5 times the number of accounts and presently their field workers manually read meters whereas JBWD takes electronic meter readings. And Twentynine Palms has a mechanic and treatment plant operators on staff.

Details: Twentynine Palms has a CPA consultant on contract as CFO for up to $6,000 per month plus one bookkeeper for $60,783 for total $132,783. JBWD has an assistant general manager/controller and three people listed as finance for a total $348,178. Why?

JBWD has an HR person on staff. Twentynine Palms had zero 2016 HR cost and $5,000 HR 2017 cost as job classification upgrades were done. Why does JBWD need an HR person on staff?

Twentynine Palms doesn’t have an engineering department (geographical information system coordinator and/or administrative assistant) on staff, however JBWD does at a cost of $182,027. Why?

JBWD also wants to increase the size of administration building by 1,000 square feet and increase the field building by 1,000 square feet. Why not reduce the size of the administration staff and forgo the expansion of the office facility?

If JBWD became efficient like Twentynine Palms and reduced its office staff, maybe the active meter user will not be required to give up an additional package of ramen noodles per day.

Data sources: website for most recent 2016 JBWD and Twentynine Palms financial data, JBWD’s 2016 annual audit, which stated 2017 increases of $191,779 in general administration and $55,841 increase in non-administration customer service.  Also, I had a meeting with both general managers, and got Twentynine Palms’ CFO contract.

Future cost drivers: Exact building costs are unknown to the author at this time.

Labor escalation: Union MOU has a 2.5 percent COLA plus merit increases. A numeric rating of 70-80 gets a zero percent raise, 80-90 gets 2.5 percent and 90-100 gets 5 percent. The general manager stated he believes his people are underpaid when compared to other districts — many of which have much higher housing costs.

The increases scare me and the lack of financial restraint/empire building scares me. Social Security raises have been small and getting offset/smaller by Medicare rate increases, and my non-government pension never increases.

Back in 2014, I challenged assumptions on Twentynine Palms’ Water rate study. The board checked the accuracy of my data, agreed, revised the study and the rates got reduced from 10 percent for five years down to 6 percent. The same needs to happen here.

Protest in writing to JBWD, 61750 Chollita Road, Joshua Tree, before Feb. 21. Identify your property address or APN, name of owner or customer and signature of owner/customer.

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1 comment:

  • desertmomma posted at 10:32 am on Tue, Feb 13, 2018.

    desertmomma Posts: 2

    I auto-pay my water bill yet they insist on sending me a paper copy via snail mail, This to me seems like a waste of funds.


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