Long before the board of directors reviews the numbers in next fiscal year’s budget, Virgin Valley Water District chief financial officer Wes Smith puts in weeks of work on that document. In his meticulous manner, Smith held meetings with district manager Kevin Brown and the entire VVWD staff of 19 to assure that all concerns and viewpoints are considered in crafting an accurate and cost-effective draft to present to the board. Smith sees a real commitment among the entire department and board in using public funds prudently while delivering top-quality water and customer service.
Smith leads the board of directors through the first round budget hearing on March 6. They examine the numbers line by line in an extended daytime public meeting. The tentative budget plans total expenditures of $19.416million. It can be viewed in full online at the VVWD website. Those expenditures will be offset by $12.469million operating and non-operating revenues and
$6.949million in cash on hand. The finalized fiscal year 2020 (FY2020) budget will be filed with the State of Nevada by May 31, for implementation July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.
District rate payers may be relieved to know that VVWD has only a .30 percent rate increase slated for FY2020. That increase was voted upon as part of a four-year advance time block that the district uses to allow rate payers and developers to budget for their own purposes.
When the current four-year time block expires in FY2021, it is anticipated that rates will increase 1 percent per year out to 2042, the end of VVWD’s current forecasting. That projected yearly rate hike is lower than the standard cost of living increase.
Other good news for rate payers is the scheduled $1.00 monthly reduction per customer in debt service surcharge, starting July 1, 2019. Each VVWD rate payer currently pays $9.30 monthly surcharge that goes toward retirement of bonds and interest owed by the district. That monthly surcharge drops to $8.30 in July. Last year, Smith was successful in renegotiating VVWD interest rates when the district achieved a strong revenue to debt ratio, an action that lowered each ratepayer’s surcharge.
In discussing district finances, Smith expresses his confidence in its current situation. He has been an employee of the district since 2011, joining the staff when VVWD had severe financial issues. By taking on debt in the form of bonds and increasing water rates for district users, the budget deficit has been managed. Smith feels assured that VVWD has the resources and the systems in place to provide reliable water supply and good asset management in the foreseeable future.
Smith says VVWD wants to produce “water, not news,” but he cautions that not every expense or situation can be anticipated. He points to the federal ruling on arsenic standard reduction as an issue that was completely out of the hands of local authorities. While the federal government helped fund local arsenic remediation, district bonds were used to pay additional costs which still exist today. Smith and his colleagues at VVWD work to utilize the tools, processes, and plan that successfully deal with known issues, and save “rainy day” funds to cover unexpected emergencies that arise. VVWD is Mesquite and Bunkerville’s sole culinary water provider. Smith notes that everybody can help by adopting a conserving attitude to aid in using our water resources wisely.