Water district OKs new budget | TheUnion.com

Water district OKs new budget

November saw a hotly contested election for two of the three open seats on the Nevada Irrigation District board — in large part due to the ongoing controversy over the Centennial Dam, and whether the district needs to continue with the multimillion-dollar reservoir project.

The election results did not end up providing any clear direction for the water district, however, as a split remained in effect with Ricki Heck replacing Nancy Weber, Laura Peters beating Will Morebeck in Placer County and Chris Bierwagen taking John Drew’s seat.

Wednesday marked the first meeting of the newly elected board and those divisions and the resultant dysfunction became immediately apparent when wrangling ensued over the appointment of a new board president.

Board member Nick Wilcox nominated Scott Miller. But Heck nominated Bierwagen, citing his “long-time voice for agriculture” and experience in parliamentary procedure.

“I think the board would benefit from Chris’ leadership,” she said.

Bierwagen said he was flattered, but declined the nomination. After some back and forth discussion and confusion on the part of not just the board, but staff as well, Bierwagen withdrew his refusal of the nomination and then declined it a second time.

In the end, Miller was elected president and nominated Heck as vice-president, both passing on unanimous votes.

The major item on the new board’s first meeting agenda was passing the 2019 budget. The budget initially was on the agenda at the board’s last meeting, but they postponed adoption after concerns were raised regarding a proposed water rate hike. Outgoing board member John Drew had moved to table the budget discussion until Wednesday, citing his belief that incoming board members should be involved in the decision.

One major issue with that proposed budget is that revenues are based on an assumption of a 5.7 percent increase in water rates and a 2 percent increase in demand, as well as a base rate adjustment. A recommendation from the water rates committee is the basis for that part of the projected revenue, but that discussion has been postponed until next year.

Heck raised her continued concern over passing the budget based on a rate increase that has not been approved, saying, “When I do my budget at home, I know how much money I am bringing in.”

Heck said she attended many of the water rate committee meetings and did not feel there was a consensus as to the proposed hike. She added she would like to see across-the board cost cutting.

“There are many carts before the horse here, that’s how I see it,” she said.

Peters also expressed concern, saying it had been difficult to absorb all the intricacies of the budget at one go.

But Bierwagen argued the budget was a “fluid” document, adding, “It’s a guideline that can be changed.”

Water district General Manager Rem Scherzinger assured the board the budget was not cast in stone and they have the ultimate authority to make amendments.

The budget passed 3-2, with Peters and Heck voting no.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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