Dear Mr. Muse:
Congratulations on your re-election to the Helix Water Board. Here are some things I hope you will consider as you go forward with the Helix Water District:
We ratepayers are working-class and elderly. Money is tight these days and I see room for adjustment in the budget. We can’t afford to have our rates increased again next year. Water is a necessity, not a luxury and not a commodity. In my mind, our rates are a tax.
I’d like you to think about other options before you vote to raise rates again, like looking for other sources of income. Every public agency has sacrificed during the recession and subsequent slow economy. Helix has not.
I understand that you want to be generous with the employees. But, the health coverage for the Board and the employees is the best I have ever seen. Perhaps you can look into some less expensive plans, like the ones other public agencies have. I’ve worked in the public sector most of my life, and I’m pro-worker, but we all have co-pays now and so should you. Your employees earn good salaries and they can pay a co-pay when they go to the doctor, just like the rest of us. There needs to be a little give and take on the part of the employees.
I understand that you want to give the employees autonomy to do their jobs, but letting them hire an auditor is wrong. The Helix Policies and Procedures Manual, which I found on the Helix Water District website, says: “Section 9.1-11(B) …The Board will retain and periodically review the work of an auditor as an independent contractor of the District (other than the Financial Officer/Treasurer), who will report to the Board, to conduct an annual audit of the District’s books, records and financial affairs….” In other words, it’s your job to hire the auditor, not staff’s job.
Please move Board meetings to a reasonable hour, like say 6 or 6:30 p.m. when we work-a-day folks can attend. Whether or not we show up is not the point. We should always have access and you will show us you’re not hiding anything. There’s a lot of mistrust among the “customers.”
Get rid of the tiered-rate structure. It’s unfair. It doesn’t matter that everyone pays less than the price of water for the first 10 units. It penalizes those who have animals, fruit trees and gardens. For example, an elderly woman living alone told me her bill was over $400 because of her avocado trees. Another single woman with very little property, told me her bill is normally over $200. My family’s bill is normally over $200 and we don’t water our grass. We water our trees and plants only.
I appreciate that you care enough to be involved. I hope you will do the right thing for the ratepayers for a change, and I wish you the best.