My Turn: TCPUD should cut costs, not increase rates
November 13, 2008
The following are excerpts from my letter dated Nov. 3 to the Tahoe City Public Utility District Board of Directors and General Manager:
In reviewing the ’09 budget presented to the finance committee, it appears that spending just keeps marching on in spite of the current economy even after reassurances by the Board that she has directed all departments to carefully keep a rein on spending.
Columnist David Leonhardt, Spokane Spokesman Review, wrote, “Already raises are becoming more scarce. Companies are trimming hours or laying off workers. And with inflation reaching the highest point in years, a stagnant wage is like a cut in pay.”
And earlier last month “income for the median household ” the one in the dead middle of the income distribution ” will probably be lower in 2010 than it was, amazingly enough, a full decade earlier. That hasn’t happened since the 1930s.”
The City of Vallejo’s Mayor has asked most workers to take unpaid time off and has voluntarily offered a 10 percent cut in his own salary. In Indiana, US Steel has cut 800 contractor jobs, and all hourly employees are required to take a one-week vacation in December (if they’ve used their 2008 vacation hours, this will cut into their 2009 allocation).
And now back to the TCPUD ’09 budget: An 11.25 percent increase over the 2008 budget, while companies nationwide are being forced to cut back due to economic considerations, and just look at our local economy.
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The general manager should be able to effectively trim the $209,312 increase in spending in order to bring fiscal efficiency into the PUD. Drastic measures like the City of Vallejo has had to inact can be avoided if we will be proactive. Assumptions in the ’09 budget for 3.5 percent cost of living increases and a 4.5 percent merit increase are completely out of line in the current economic scenario.
Suzy Orman in the Oct. 25 San Francisco Chronicle stated, “We need to expect a serious, serious slowdown. Everybody needs to thin about every penny they are spending. Overall, we are in for a rough year or so.” When all the taxpayers have to buckle down and tighten their belts, it behooves the public agencies to do likewise.
Lots of suggestions and questions, but the State is anticipating a $10B budget shortfall which may “trickle down” to this level. Reno Gazette Journal reported last month that customers across the nation are unable to keep up with inflation, and defaults in utility bills are 10 to 39 percent.
Raising rates at this time when all the constituents are hurting should be accompanied by a sincere effort to cut expenses to only the most necessary.
Please attend the Nov. 24 meeting at the Tahoe City Public Utility District, which starts at 8 a.m.
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