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Front Page » December 28, 2004 » Local News » PRWID Concludes Lengthy Review Process, Adopts 2005 Budget
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PRWID Concludes Lengthy Review Process, Adopts 2005 Budget

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Sun Advocate community editor

The Price River Water Improvement District will enter 2005 with a budget totalling nearly $7.5 million. The PRWID board members adopted the water improvement district's general operational financial guidelines for the 2005 fiscal year during a public meeting last Tuesday.

At the end of a long meeting, the Price River Water Improvement District's board of directors adopted an operating budget for 2005.

The preliminary budget handed to board members a few weeks ago, underwent substantial changes during the process, many of which were due to additional revenue and changes in plans in PRWID operations.

The budget as adopted encompasses all operations to the tune of $7,478,860. By state law, the expenditures projected by the water improvement district must balance with revenues coming into the entity.

Revenues for the district come basically from two sources; rates charged to customers for both sewer and water services and property tax assessments.

But while the proposed budget was in balance, many questions and concerns from board members brought about a difficult resolution to just how the budget should be placed in it's final form.

One of the biggest concerns amongst everyone involved is the increases in insurance rates for employees and being sure that those same employees get compensated properly.

"One of the things we have come to the conclusion about is that we need to separate insurance coverages from one another," said Phil Palmer, the district's manager. "We have decided that we can come up with better rates if we split up the health insurance, eye care and dental plans."

When PRWID started looking at what the district had to deal within the coming year, officials were facing costs more than 20 percent higher than in the last fiscal year.

With the help of agents, tweaking coverages, adjusting deductibles for certain services and splitting up plans it appears those costs will only go up about 9 percent.

That 9 percent, however, still costs the district significant money.

Based on preliminary figures, the district will spend between $351 and $383 per employee next year for insurance per month. The total cost to the district for the year will be about $32,000.

In the budget, PRWID also plans to give all employees a 2 percent cost of living increase and some employees will also get a 1 percent merit increase.

"What I am concerned about when it comes to wages is that we have some employees that have some very low pay rates," said PRWID board member Tom Matthews during the discussion. "I would like for us to find some money to help bring some of those rates up."

Matthews suggested a few areas where he thought money could be found in the budget to help cover the costs. He said he felt the district needed to find a place to get money to replenish the reserves that have been depleted the last few years.

One of the places Matthews suggested extra money may come from a budget item to purchase a new dump truck for the district.

"I think we should not buy a new truck," said Matthews. "Here we are talking about raising taxes. I think that kind of thing can give us a black eye."

The $110,000 appropriated for a new dump truck in the original proposed budget had been under discussion at the last three meetings.

Some PRWID board members felt a new truck was not needed and the district should instead buy used. On the other hand, other members had information indicating that the purchase of a new truck would be more cost effective during the next 20 years than buying a used one with a projected life of 10 years.

Matthews suggested taking about $12,500 from the truck purchase budget and put toward raising the lower salaries.

But assistant district director Jeff Richens warned the board that doing that would tie PRWID into a long-term commitment.

"I have no problem with that kind of thing if that is what the board wants to do. But remember that the truck is a purchase for this year only," said Richens. "If some of that money is put into salaries for this year, next year and the year after, the board will have to come up with that again. Once that money goes to salaries or benefits, it will never come back to operations and maintenance."

Richens pointed out that he realizes the district loses some quality employees because of the pay rates but that he also wanted to be sure the "boards eyes were open" if they made any such move.

Matthews said that he understood that some time ago the district offered more money to those who were granted certain certifications.

Palmer explained that the district had to back off doing that because of a lack of funds that began to occur years ago.

Board member Tony Gonzales who represents Helper City pointed out that his town has not even been able to give their employees any raises for four years.

"We don't have the money to give any kind of raise," he said. "We certainly would like to, but we can't."

With the public hearings on both the budget and the proposed tax increase for 2006 over with, the board also discussed the proposal to increase water and sewer rates they went over a during a meeting in early December. The staff presented to the board scales which show water and sewer rates and how they have changed since the 1970s.

In 1975 the base water rate for all users was $6. That grew to $11 by 1985 and $18 by 1997. Presently the base rate for retail water customers is $20.84 per month.

Sewer rates have also changed over the years. In 1970 the rate for district users was set at $4.25 per month while users in the municipalities were paying $3.25. By 1985 those rates had gone up to $11 and $10 respectively. At present the rate for district users is $25.50 and there are three rates for the various cities with Price paying the most at $15.73, and then Wellington at $14.37 and Helper with a $14.33 charge per month.

The proposed increase for sewer rates would be one dollar on all users across the board per month. For water the PRWID staff is proposing that a one dollar increase for each hookup in wholesale users areas be charged, and a $2 increase on all retail customers base be applied.

Richens said the kind of increase would bring in $97,452 annually for sewer revenues and $58,848 annually for water.

At present, PRWID provides water to 1925 water hookups in the unincorporated area. The district also supply water to other entities, including Wellington which has about 671 hookups. Helper buys water when it needs it and Price City and PRWID have a water trade agreement that somewhat balances out from season to season.

The staff also passed out paperwork that showed the amount of water that has been billed this year in both the wholesale (cities) and retail customer areas. In retail the district has billed for $1,156,822.04. The wholesale billing has provided $260,079.04 in revenues.

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