By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
Like the June 13 public hearing, Tuesday night’s board meeting of the Crescenta Valley Water District was contentious. CVWD customers packed the courtyard where chairs and tables had been set up for the board meeting to accommodate the anticipated overflow crowd. However, unlike the public hearing when board members had the opportunity to listen to the public’s concerns regarding a proposed property related fee and charge that would be attached to homeowners’ property tax bills, Tuesday night’s board meeting couldn’t provide the opportunity for exchange between board members and the public. This was upsetting to the customers present who demanded answers to questions surrounding Resolution No. 786, the approval of capital charges on the property tax roll to fund pipeline replacement and associated costs for the fiscal year 2023-24.
The option that was of most concern to customers involved a possible charge of $404 on most residents’ property tax bills. In addition to challenging the board to find alternate means to fund replacement of the aging infrastructure, including merging with another water district and exploring possible grants, during public comment questions arose as to how prior monies had been spent. Also oft repeated was the need for more transparency from the district. More than one attendee recommended that the board postpone the decision until a survey or poll was circulated among its 8,600-plus customers regarding the increase and how to fund it.
Once everyone spoke who had submitted a comment card, discussion took place among the board members regarding the options being considered for raising the money to replace the aging pipes within the water district. Despite shouts from the attendees and threats by President Sharon Raghavachary to close the meeting, discussion ensued among the board members and a final vote was taken.
A hybrid solution was unanimously voted on in which most customers will be charged $194 per household per year and initially two bonds issued over the next six years totaling about $24 million.
The per household charge will show the bond funders a reliable revenue stream that will keep low the interest rate on the bonds.
An “opt-out” option was also approved that would give homeowners the ability to not have this charge on their property tax bill; however, according to Tom Bunn, attorney for the district, that doesn’t give homeowners the option of not paying the related fee.
“It’s a matter of how the money is collected,” he said. Homeowners who choose to opt-out will pay the fee through their water bill.
Bunn explained the reason why the option of having the charge on a homeowner’s property tax bill was considered was because of how long the proposed repairs would last – an estimated 75 years for most of the repairs.
“One of the rationales [the board considered] is that, ultimately, the homeowner benefits due to the longevity of the repair,” he said noting that most tenants do not remain renting a property for 30 years – the maturity date of most bonds.
Before voting each board member took time to express the difficulty in selecting an option.
“We’re all going to feel pain,” said board member Jeffrey Johnson. He also applauded the hard work done by the staff to provide the information needed to make an informed decision. “It was a whirlwind process.”
Also discussed on Tuesday was the selection of a company to perform the district’s annual audit. The firm of SingerLewak, which will be charging about 30% less than other firms, was elected.
Director James Bodnar noted that the response from the crowd, which was outspoken, regarding the choice of auditors “demanded choosing a company that charges 30% less.”
Finally, interim manager James Lee announced that Regulatory & Public Affairs manager Christy Colby will be leaving the district after 20 years with CVWD. Her last day will be July 26.