SLV Water District Finances
The team of Bob Fultz, Lois Henry and Steve Swan has a strong combined background in financial management. In our daily work in business and banking, we each have been responsible for budgeting, cost accounting, and analyzing the best return on investment, all skills that are needed for appropriate oversight of district finances. We bring to the board years of experience in financial common sense.
Board Fiscal Responsibilities
The board’s primary purpose and most important responsibility is financial oversight. They are elected to represent our interests and manage the money we provide through paying our water bills, both to cover the cost of water and to maintain our system.
The following suggestions would go a long way to improve present practices and help the board meet this important responsibility:
1. A simplified financial statement of not more than three pages created monthly and included in the board packet would help the board --and the customers of SLV -- better understand the financial health of the district. The statement should include five parts:
A. Income—Income should include water sales, property tax income, interest income and miscellaneous income.
B. Payroll—Payroll should include salaried executives, operational employees, office staff, benefits for all these individuals, and PERS contributions.
C. Expenses—Expenses should include monthly outlay for insurance, vehicle maintenance and repair, utilities, attorney fees, infrastructure repairs, consultant fees, computer maintenance, office repairs, and supplies.
D. Debts—Debts should be itemized along with interest paid on the debts.
E. Reserves—Reserves include capital improvement reserves, operational reserves and emergency reserves.
These categories should include the monthly total, the year to date total and the percentage of the budgeted item. A profusion of segmented financial data is currently spread among over a dozen pages, or in raw data form, for the monthly board reports. An “executive summary” simplified report to bind this data together, including graphs to indicate trends, would help put directors in a position to better understand where the money is coming from, and where it is going, for improved, sound budget decisions.
2. In approving the annual Budget, and in oversight of ongoing expenses, the board has a responsibility to consider how to reduce costs. For example:
A. Is a Public Relations firm really needed? Have we correctly identified our needs?
B. Can we hire a local attorney? How many hours do we really need?
C. How to quickly resolve all lawsuits, and how to improve risk management.
D. Do we use consultants to fill staffing gaps, or as needed for specialized skills? In the past the district has not always followed the suggestions given to us by paid consultants; why are we incurring costs to hire them?
E. Review all vendors to see that we are getting the most for our money.
F. With few exceptions, like emergencies, competitive bids should be obtained before making purchases or hiring consultants.
3. The board should encourage and strive to assure a healthy organizational culture and workplace environment. This includes improving communication with staff and union representatives to ensure that employees are fully engaged in doing their best job to benefit the district and the rate payers. Staff should be encouraged to think outside the box to make improvements and efficiencies to the operation of the district and management should be open to all suggestions. Encouraging employees to be creative will benefit the district and the rate payers.
Improved communication and transparency with both staff and the public is critically needed, as has been investigated and reported by the Grand Jury report of May 2018, and solutions as detailed in our team’s alternate Response to the Grand Jury, posted on our website, --all measurable steps and goals we intend to implement as soon as we are placed in office and put to work for you.
Water Rates and Budgeting: Summary
Water rates are directly tied into how well the board accomplishes the above 3 steps in oversight of district finances and efficiencies. Our water rates should adequately fund district administrative and field operations, improvements, and a set of reserves. The district must be prepared for natural disasters, drought, and economic downturns. All these considerations go into making a healthy budget.
Our budget is the “heart” of the district: it shows what we value, what we make a priority, and where we are going. The budget must also show respect for affordable water, for the thousands of households and families in our community.
As soon as voters put us to work on the board, the team of Bob Fultz, Lois Henry, and Steve Swan plan to take a critical mid-year look at district finances and rebuild the budget from the ground up, resolving to find ways to reduce our high water rates and stabilize future increases by passing along savings gained from efficiencies and reduced spending while still maintaining our infrastructure investments and building reserves.