The Devils Lake Water Improvement District held its annual budget committee meeting in their offices on Monday, May 10th, 2010.
The meeting lasted 5 hours and was attended by DLWID staff, four board members, three budget committee members, and two observers. The order of business was a presentation by the District Manager of the proposed 2010-2011 budget, followed by public comment and discussion by the budget committee. Budget modifications were adopted by formal resolution of the budget committee.
For a complete description of the presentation made by the Lake Manger see the narrative in the 2010-2011 Proposed Budget. The discussion that follows is presented by budget section and attempts to capture the discussions of the public, and budget committee. Also described are the proposed actions of the committee. The next step in the budget process is to publish the modified budget by May 19th followed by a budget hearing and adoption on June 3rd.
There was a considerable amount of discussion related to the budget message. The concern was expressed that the casual reader should be able to quickly identify the major initiatives proposed by the district along with major variances between the proposed budget and previous year’s actual expenditures. Major variances between the proposed budget and the previous year’s budget should also be included.
Action: Agreement to modify the budget message ensuring it contains the requested information.
Proposed Levied Taxes
The plan assumes a 3% increase in valuation. With decreases in RMV in recent years it is possible that assessed value and RMV lines will cross actually decreasing tax base or at least zero growth. This was addressed in the budget and the decision was made to increase the tax base. It was suggested that the district contact the Tax Assessors office for specific recommendation; potential impact would be a reduction of $8,000-10,000 in revenue.
Action: The Lake Manager will consult with the Tax Assessors office, no modification at this time.
Concerns were raised related to the budgeted 3% increase in salaries and benefits. It was pointed out that the Government SSA 2010 COLA was 0% in response to a -3% negative CPI. Oregon PERS 2010 COLA was limited to .12 %. The current month CPI according to the Oregon Employment Department is .5% suggesting not much has changed since August. State government employees have taken 14 unpaid furlough days to prevent layoffs. Oregon cancelled the scheduled 2010 increase in minimum wage. It was agreed that neither the public nor the budget committee should control individuals salary as there are many factors besides COLA that determine pay. It was argued that a 3% COLA increase is out of line given current conditions and should be given a second look.
It was also suggested that the district examine its provision of benefits. This might include asking questions such as; What percentage do employees contribute to the health care benefit and on what basis does it escalate. When was the last time the health care plan was put out to bid? Has a recent assessment been made on the plan type is it and associated deductible and/or co-pays.
Action: It was determined that all references to COLA be removed and a fixed budgeted amount of $75,000 be used; which is an increase of approximately 4% providing the board flexibility to access the staff’s performance and salary during its normal review process.
It was stated that the use of summer interns has been a positive program for the district as it provides the district help during the season and creates opportunities for young students trying to establish themselves in the field. The budget had reduced the intern program to include only two months Aug-Sept; this was questioned and it seems that our RARE intern’s term expires midsummer which makes him a good candidate for the position finishing out the summer.
Action: No Change
It was suggested that the $1,570 budgeted in the legal account seems very inadequate given the district intends to file for an extension of the Grass Carp permit. Any serious appeal will need to be drafted or at least reviewed by council.
Action: Legal will be increased to $3,000.
A recommendation was made that the suggested DNA testing for Thompson Creek be expanded to any site that Ecoli is failing which in 2009 were Thompson Creek, Rock Creek and the D River. This should be a district contribution to the health of the lake to match private expenditures associated with the septic program.
Action: The budget item was increased $8,000 to perform the additional testing, if approved by the board. The new funds would be appropriated from the improvement fund rather than the general fund.
It was recommended that this program should be funded at a higher level either in the general fund or from the improvement fund. It was also stated that the district should allocate more funds for public relations associated with this project to promote its expansion. A recommendation was made that a professional perhaps the author of the Vegetation Guide should be brought in to supervise these early projects and developed a specific planting plan for the lake to become part of a comprehensive plan for the lake in support of the grass carp applications.
Action: No Change
The district was encouraged to complete the review and adoption of the Communications Plan as it will make calculation of this budget element easier. It appears that this line item was only increased by the cost of two water district mailer. The Communications Committee was glad that is occurring but somewhat disappointed that the plan was not used to create a more comprehensive communications effort for 2010. The Communications Plan recommended a more extensive communications effort related to major district initiatives. The committee was encouraged by the proposed creation of a educational video series contained in the Improvement Fund expenditures.
Action: No Change
RESERVE FUNDS (Improvement Fund)
Issue was taken with the inclusion of $70,000 in unsecured grants. Given that no specific grant project or matching grant source had been identified in the document, it seems misleading to include this unlikely revenue source. The district countered that it would be too labor intensive to amend the budget if this item were not included and they were to receive a grant.
Action: No Change
There was general agreement with the need to place an emphasis on the SOS program but the use of the $25,000 has not been explained in the budget. The feeling was that a great deal of effort has been put forward toward this and the district should plant more shoreline. It was suggested that this project should continue through the use of a paid consultant to develop a detailed implementation plan including in lake planting and enclosure design and management plan, on which the board can make a implementation determination. Once developed the planting plan can become a key component in the appeal of the grass carp permit. Should the board should the board choose to proceed; implementation should be accomplished by an intern and promoted through specific targeted communications plan.
Action: The current $25,000 amount will remain but more details will be provided as to the use of the funds.
It was express that the district should continue the work begun with the native planting guide and solicit further work using Tetra Tech or an alternative to develop the plan previously described to be coupled with the grass carp application.
Action: This project will be funded with $25,000.
A statement was made that there should not be any funds designated for the purchase of grass carp ($100,000) as the plan states that there are no plans to purchase them in the coming year. It seems to be misleading to budget an expenditure that will not be made. Instead, the budget should reflect an amount for the use of consultants and other realistic expenditures to cover the costs of appealing the current grass carp application.
Action: No Change
Recommendations were made against the hiring of a project manager. It was felt that this would likely lead to continued full-time employment in future years. The budget suggested the loss of the summer intern program would offset the permanent position. The intern program is a very positive initiative because bolsters the employment options of young environmentalist by providing on-the-job experience. The current mix; that is using a combination of contract and intern labor provides the specialized expertise and seasonal assistance the district requires.
Action: The $35,000 suggested amount will remain but will not be authorized for the creation of another paid staff position. Instead, if approved by the board, the funds will be used for a combination of supplemental labor sources, which may include, contractors and interns.