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By Miriam Raftery

Jonathan Goetz contributed to this report

March 6, 2017 (La Mesa) – Helix Water District’s board will hold a special meeting on March 8 at 6 p.m. to consider a proposal by newly elected board member Dan McMillan to lower water rates. 

But a staff report (see agenda) advises against a rate reduction at this time, citing insufficient reserves. Instead, staff recommends that the district continue to look at opportunities to reduce rates as fiscal year 2016-17 concludes, after results of winter and spring rainfall are measured and the fiscal year 2017-18 budget is developed.

“The district has been reducing expenses over the last seven years due to the economic downturns and impacts of the severe drought,” staff acknowledges, but adds, “The district has also been supporting efforts to develop drought resistant and reliable water supplies. The drought and development of water supplies have put upward pressure on water rates.”

The prior board had approved an unprecedented five years of rate hikes, however only one member who voted for the five-year rate increase remains on the board (DeAna Verbecke).

The report indicates that staff “anticipates that the savings could e greater than what has been able to be identified at this point in the fiscal year,” offering hope that there could be room to lower rates in the future without putting reserves at risk.

Beyond the March 8 meeting, a five-year projection will be presented to the board on May 17, with a preliminary budget distributed to board members on May 31.   A public board workshop will be held on June 6, followed by an August 2 meeting at which the board is expected to approve rates for fiscal year 2017-18.

All meetings will be held at the district headquarters at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.

At last Wednesday’s March 1 meeting, the board voted to change the term of President from two years to one year. The all-volunteer board also voted to approve $200 per diem stipends for board members who attend Chamber of Commerce breakfast meetings.