GRASS VALLEY, Calif. April 24, 2019 – NID ratepayers will see an increase in their monthly bills, but it will be less than originally proposed.
Here’s a brief summary:
Today’s public hearing at NID headquarters went on for approximately three hours with members of the public expressing their opposition to the proposed rate increases. The irrigation district scheduled a Prop. 218 hearing as required by law and conducted a count of the protest votes. 4,694 protest votes were received, which fell short of the 12,500 protest votes required to abandon the rate increase.
Counting votes by hand
Counting the protest votes was done in the Annex, an auxiliary building on NID grounds. A number of customer service staff and volunteers opened the wooden ballot boxes and began a soft count to determine if enough ratepayers opposed the proposed increase.
While at times improvisational, the method selected by the district worked relatively well – for a soft count. This reporter was briefly asked to leave the room by NID management but quickly re-invited to see the operation in person rather then watching a fixed camera shot on a screen. Observers were present at all times during the soft count. In two hours all envelopes were opened and the number of ballots received was tentatively set at 4,694.
After a vigorous board discussion, a vote to increase rates by 5.72% for 3 years rather than the original 5-year time frame failed by a 3-2 vote. “This is an irresponsible thing, we have to fund the district,” said Director Wilcox, explaining his No vote. Bierwagen agreed with Wilcox, stating “We’ve cut too much.” Peters said she wanted a smaller increase, along a 3% increase.
Peters then changed her position and proposed a motion with the same rate increase, which was seconded by Heck. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote with Peters, Heck and Miller voting Yes.
NID will transfer $22 million from hydroelectric reserves, $3.6 million from investment earnings and $1.2 from non-operating revenue to the water fund to cover cost for the 3-year period. The rate increase will take effect on July 1, 2019. Directors also demanded a presentation by staff at the July board meeting to reduce the 2019 budget by a minum of 5%.
Check back for additional updates later.