Bonnie Petitt: Nevada Irrigation District only looking out for itself |

Bonnie Petitt: Nevada Irrigation District only looking out for itself

NID’s proposed rate changes are completely unwarranted.

My research into Nevada County and NID documents has provided the following information:

The median household income within the County of Nevada is $56,521 (in 2015 dollars as provided by the U.S. Census Bureau). This is 8% lower than the California median household income of $61,818 (NID Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal year 2017).

“Median household income in Nevada County fluctuated, but ultimately experienced little overall change between 2007 and 2016. Overall median household income in Nevada County increased by roughly 3% during that time period.” (Nevada County Economic and Demographic Profile 2018)

Per the same county profile, there has been a 76% increase in free and reduced lunches for students attending Nevada County schools over the same 10-year period. Additionally, there has been no increase in agricultural earnings and an increase of only 10 jobs in the agricultural sector over the last 10 years. Nevada County has a large senior population many of whom live on fixed incomes.

During the same approximate time period, 2008-2017 NID water fees for treated water increased by 86% (Daily base charge at 1 inch) and for raw water by 57% (1 MI). In addition “The District increased its water rates for fiscal year 2016, 2017 and 2018 by an average of six percent (6%) for both raw water and treated water customers.” (NID Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal year 2017). If the proposed rates are enacted, customers could potentially see a 15-year fee increase of 263% and 154%, respectively; while clearly the local economy has not kept pace with these increases. The average annual rate of inflation for that time period was 1.6% (CPI).

Water supplies are integral in sustaining an agricultural industry in Nevada County which includes irrigated pasture, vineyards, orchards and family gardens. If customers cannot afford the water necessary to sustain these crops, local farmers and ranchers may lose their livelihoods, consumer cost for the goods they provide will likely rise as the transportation cost of goods increases and a cascading scenario of higher prices and fewer jobs ensues.

Additionally, once these rural acres are no longer irrigated, the threat of fire increases and potentially affects our entire community. Habitats are potentially affected and the scenic qualities of our area may be substantially diminished.

The NID Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal year 2017 provides the following information:

The assets of the District exceeded its liabilities at the close of the most recent fiscal year by $411,268,277 (net position). The District has $366,586,609 investment in capital assets $7,138,137 restricted by statute and debt service, and $37,543,531 unrestricted.

The District increased its net position in 2017 by $13.4 million, a 3.4% increase over 2016. The change representing this growth in net position is due to an increase in sales (water, electric, recreation) of $3 million, an increase in taxes and assessments of $0.4 million, and an increase in operating expenses of $3.7 million. The District’s nonoperating revenues reflect an increase in investment income of $1.6 million .The District’s working capital, current assets of $28,246,081 minus current liabilities of $9,948,069 a positive $18,298,012, slightly down from 2016, reflects an appropriate level of liquidity. This demonstrates a strong financial position, undoubtedly contributing to an excellent bond rating.

Based on the information presented, it is clear that NID is fiscally solvent and operating at an acceptable level. When compared to the local economy, they are in a much better position than we, to absorb their operating costs and a desire to meet a 50% reserve target. In addition, their proposal for drought rates punishes us even further in that during the last declared drought event many of us voluntarily reduced our water usage; we paid the same amount but got less water. We received no refunds or credit for future water purchases. Now they want to charge more money for even less product. How is this and all of their proposed rate changes a supportable and moral act? They no longer seem to be supporting the constituents they represent but instead, seem focused on supporting themselves.

If you do not support the rate increases, the change to monthly billings or the proposed drought rates, please write to NID and let them know. They will not implement these fee changes if they receive written protests from 50% (plus 1) of their customers.

Bonnie Petitt has lived in Grass Valley for 31 years.

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