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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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DSRSD unveils two year budget

Uploaded: May 26, 2011
The Budget Workshop held at the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) Tuesday night was attended by three reporters, one of whom was me, and two residents, one of whom was me. Yes, I wore two hats at this meeting, but I was surprised that more residents didn't attend, or at least I was surprised until the workshop started.

It was a sequel, or in code. Well everyone else there seemed to know what they were talking about, but I needed to look up the background information in the 1" thick press package and even then I couldn't keep up with all of it. So I phoned the District on Wednesday and Thursday with follow up questions.

The Budget presented at the Workshop spans July, 2011 to June 2013. It's described in the handout from the meeting as a two year Budget for 2012 and 2013, but General Manager Bert Michalczyk called it two one-year budgets. The 2013 budget would be reviewed again next year.

The workshop actually covered four budgets; the 2012 and 2013 CIP (Capital Improvement Program) budgets were presented first by District Engineer, Dave Requa. Requa told the Board of Directors that the projects are the same as last year's with the addition of $1.5M for a unit to reduce the amount of liquid in wastewater to dry out the bio-solids for easier disposal. This was not a tasty topic for a dinner-time presentation.

Two projects in the on-going list are probably of more importance to residents of South San Ramon, $75K in 2012 is budgeted for rehabilitation of the sewer pipe in Pine Valley Road, and $350K over the next two years for the Wastewater Collection system Replacement (Rehabilitation) Program. It's good to know that DSRSD is repairing and replacing older sewer lines over the next year or two. The total CIP budget for the next two years comes to approximately $9.5M.

Financial Services Manager, Lori Rose, presented the two year Operating Budget, which comes in at close to $7M each year. The 2013 budget is only 1.29% higher than the 2008 budget, and the 2012 budget is almost exactly the same. I asked Lori Rose why 2008 was used for comparison instead of 2009 or 2010, and she said it was in the table they used in the slide. But she also added that 2008, which was really FY 2007-08, was the last normal year before the financial crisis hit.

One of the more controversial issues last year was the Temporary Infrastructure Charge. This was an $18 charge added to water bills to cover the cost of building the infrastructure in Dougherty Valley after connection fees (now called Capacity fees) dried up in the housing crisis. The District was $50M in debt and needed to refinance its loans. They had to get their credit rating up to keep the interest down on a bond issue. They were able to do this by adding the $18 "temporary" infrastructure fee.

Last year the Directors considered raising the fee in 2012, but the bond sale went through. There won't be an increase in the fee, but the fee isn't going away either. Director Rich Halket wants it kept in the budget "as a safety measure." Developers are starting to apply for Capacity fees again, but since the economy and the housing market are still iffy, this "temporary" fee will stay in the budget for 2012 but could be revisited in 2013.

The 2012 Budget includes funds for a Rate Study. With water use dropping, rates will probably be increased. That's the catch 22 of water districts. They bill whatever it takes to cover expenses, so water rates are based on how much the district needs to provide it. On the other hand, the State is mandating a 20% reduction in water use by 2020. So the less water you use, the more the district has to charge for the water to keep the income levels the same.

Last year the District started a program of providing a reduced rate on water for low income residents. So far residents who are in the sewer district do not get a price break. I asked Bert if revenues were being sought to help out low income sewer users. Bert said they would see how the water program is working over the last six months, and consider providing a similar program for sewer users in September.

I was disappointed by the low turnout for this meeting, but it would have been helpful to have the staff reports online in advance. Sue Stephenson, Community Affairs Supervisor, told me the District will be considering that in their Specific Plan, which will be on the Agenda for the next regular Board meeting on June 7, 2011. So that's another one I plan to attend.

I also want to ask about the status is of putting the meetings on TV30. When I asked the Chamber of Commerce to put the Mayor's State of the City address on TV30, the cost was only $500 for two people to tape it. The cost of taping District meetings should be about the same, or $1000 a month. More residents might take an interest in what happens at the District if the meetings were available to view online.

Comments

Posted by member, a resident of another community,
on May 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Alhtough televising is an idea to get more interest, just remember that an additional $1000/month for TV30 is just that much more that the District will have to charge the residents every year to make up for the cost.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

@member,

The District has 145,000 rate payers. So $12,000 if passed onto all of the rate payers would increase your bill by 8-1/4 cents.

However, the $12,000 was available this year, but it was used to pay a 1.5% COLA to senior managers instead, which you might have known about if the Staff Report had been available online.

Here's what was in Board Meeting Agenda Consent Calendar for November 16, 2011:

F. Senior Managers 2010 Salary Adjustments

When I saw this entry in the online Agenda, I phoned for the details. I was told that the Senior Managers, whose pay is between $175,000 and $185,000 a year, would be getting a 1.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

I had just received a letter from Social Security saying that there would be no COLA in 2011. So I attended the November 16, 2011 meeting to question this item.

I thought the COLA included General Manager Bert Michalczyk ($265,000) too, which is how I came up with the figure of at least $12,000. If only the four Senior Managers received COLAs the total would be closer to $11,000

This is from the Minutes of the November 16, 2011 Board Meeting:

8. CONSENT CALENDAR

In response to a speaker card received from Ms. Rogoff related to Item 8F, President Hansen invited her to address the Board.

Speaker: Ms. Roz Rogoff, San Ramon Resident - Ms. Rogoff expressed her dismay about Item 8.F on the Consent Calendar. She stated that she did not believe it was an appropriate time for the District's four senior managers who are making big salaries to receive adjustments. She stated her opinion that this is particularly true when those living on social security are not receiving a cost of living adjustment. She offered examples of how the dollars associated with the proposed adjustment could be used elsewhere, including posting Board agenda packets on the Internet and having Board meetings videotaped for easy public viewing. She stated that she personally thinks the $12,000 per year for these cost of living adjustments could be spent better.

V.P. Howard MOVED for approval of the items on the Consent Calendar. Director Halket SECONDED the MOTION, which CARRIED with FIVE AYES.

You might have known about this if the meeting had been televised.

After the meeting Director Rich Halket told me that the COLA was in the Managers' contracts, so the District is required to pay it. However, San Ramon Valley Unified School District Superintendent Steve Enoch recently turned down a $12,000 salary increase, because "It was the right thing to do." Web Link


Roz


Posted by member, a resident of another community,
on May 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Those are definitely good points Roz and when you put it into perspective like that it isn't much. I also understand that sometimes raises are part of a contract and must be given. The public doesn't understand that but that's the way contracts are in public agencies and to get out of them would mean huge even gigantic legal fees for the District (or whatever agency tries to break a contract). I also don't know if it's even possible for someone at an agency like DSRSD or a City agency to turn down a raise... I suspect that every agency is different in that regard. I think it's built into the payroll system. But it is definitely odd (or maybe it's actually common?? and unfortunate) that top managers who make the decisions and fight to keep staff salaries low during contract negotiations are the ones to get the perks while staff does not...in fact, didn't they lay off some staff a while back? And General Managers (and possibly execs too) of public/quasi public agencies often have even more perks than everyone else (look at what just happened with BART and that they had to pay out millions to the top dog who was fired/let go....now THAT is a scam!) This is especially of concern when, as you pointed out, folks on social security are not receiving COLA's.

As a separate note, I enjoyed reading your article and wish that there was someone like you who wrote about all the local public agencies and their Board/council meetings. Granted, there are lots of articles in the bigger newspapers and even the smaller Livermore Independent but yours has a more honest tone and sounds like it's written by a "real person". Thank you.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on May 27, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

@member,

Thank you for the complement about sounding like a "real person." I'm able to do that because this is a blog and not a news story. I have a lot more freedom to interject my personal experiences and opinions here than news writers, who are supposed to remain objective. That's why I asked the Express to pay me for writing the blog instead of the news. I like being a real person better too.

You seem to know a lot about the District already. Starting in 2009 the District cut positions, reduced staff and froze salaries. The Unions made concessions too. The 2009 budget was around $865K less than 2008, and the 2010 budget was more than $1M less.

The Executive Group was cut by 3 heads after 2009. I thought the Executive Group was the Senior Managers, but Sue Stephenson explained that this group reports directly to General Manager Bert Michalczyk and is responsible for preparing the Board Packets, Agendas, and Minutes for the District and the two JPA's (Joint Powers Agreements) the District has with other agencies for the regional sewer pipe (LAVWMA) and recycled water (DERWA).

I don't know if any or all of the Senior Managers turned down the COLAs. I probably should have followed up on that, but I didn't think of it until I read the story about Superintendent Enoch turning down his raise.


Roz


Posted by Tazzy, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm

what a huge rip off....Roz...do the Board members get health care benefits? Incredible salaries....PIRATES!!!


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jun 1, 2011 at 2:32 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Tazzy,

The board members do not get big salaries. They are paid about $10,000 a year. Most of them get medical benefits, but Lori Rose told me there was a fund set up several years ago for medical benefits and retirement, so that amount is already covered.

You are confusing the Directors with the Senior Managers. They get big salaries but their jobs require a high degree of specialized technical knowledge, training, and experience. It is important to have qualified people working there because water and sewer are such necessary services.


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