Michael Hill-Weld: NID in financial straits
In a recent Other Voices column, NID General Manager Remleh Scherzinger presented a financial picture that does not match reality or his statements to the NID board.
In addition, he misrepresented the openness of the NID 2020 budget process and the public’s role in it. We seek to correct the record.
Regarding the 2020 budget, Mr. Scherzinger said the budget was balanced by subsidizing the cost of delivery of water 30% using hydroelectric sales revenues or $13.4 million. In his column, he referred to this as “cannibalizing hydroelectric revenues.” The budget, also, relies on continuing to gut the district’s reserve funds. These are one-time funds that are not replenished by water rates, hydro sales or property taxes.
The erosion of the reserve funds over the last few years is one reason NID’s bond rating has gone from AAA in 2017 to AA currently.
The general manager boasts about the transparency of the NID budget development process. However, the reality is not what he portrayed. The budget was review at public committee meetings where good discussions took place. However, before the board could act on the budget, the general manager announced that it was out of balance by $9 million with expenditures far exceeding revenues. Rather than re-refer the budget back to the committees, he brought the revised budget to the board for consideration with just a few days for the board members and public to review it.
When Director Laura Peters asked that final action be postponed in order to allow more time for review, she was shut down due to the “urgency” of adoption. Adequate review time is a critical component of transparency.
Mr. Scherzinger accuses members of the public of “attacking the District.” This simply is not true. Members of the public use the public comment portion of board meetings to provide valuable information and insights to the board and to ask questions concerning the core services of the district. They are informed and constructive. Their behavior is appropriate and in strict conformance with NID’s own policies concerning public participation. (If you have any doubt, go to the NID website to view recording of past meetings.)
We, too, desire a constructive dialog and will continue to provide thoughtful input and to ask challenging questions important to the future of NID and all of its customers.
We encourage residents of the district to see for themselves how the district is managed and what financial straits the district is in by attending the bi-monthly board meetings and monthly committee meetings. In addition, we urge you to contact your NID director and share your thoughts on water rates and other issues that directly impact you.
Michael Hill-Weld lives in Nevada City.
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