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June 24, 2009 > We lowered our budget and didn't raise our rates

We lowered our budget and didn't raise our rates

Times are tough right now for everyone. This is why I, along with the rest of the Board Members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, unanimously passed a budget lower than last years and voted not to increase the groundwater production charges.

The district Fiscal Year (FY) 2009/2010 budget is $305 million, reduced by $108 million from FY2008/2009. While a significant amount of the reduction is due to completed capital projects, the water district staff worked long and hard to streamline the budget.

The strategies employed to reduce the budget include, but aren't limited to: reprioritizing work and repositioning of staff to address critical needs; eliminating or delaying lower-priority projects; eliminating 29 vacant positions; consolidating services and functions; cutting temporary staff, overtime and non-mandatory training; cutting services and supplies, including operating equipment, purchases and travel; reducing 25 fleet vehicles and replacing some with hybrids for fuel efficiency; and postponing planned computer upgrades.

Achieving these cost savings is a major accomplishment considering the fact that water district revenues are declining, while costs are rising significantly. Several examples of shrinking revenues and growing costs are explained below.


Due to the board's call for mandatory 15% water conservation, staff is expecting a $9.5 million decline in water utility revenue for FY 2009/2010. Also, it will cost the water district about $4.4 million to bring 31,500 acre-feet of "banked" water into the county to supplement supplies.

Flood Protection and Stream Stewardship Program

This program derives it revenues from a portion of ad valorem property tax; the Clean, Safe Creeks special tax; benefit assessments; proceeds from debt financing; and income from investments. The declining property tax assessment roll may result in a $2.8 million reduction in property tax revenue.

This has been the worst recession since the 1930's and as a lifelong resident of Alviso I see the impact on my community. The water district, like all government agencies, has also been impacted. But thanks to careful strategic and financial planning, we have been able to effectively address the challenges of the recession, tightening credit, rising expenses and declining revenues, while still maintaining high service levels and critical infrastructure.

Overall, this budget reflects a commitment to keep costs down during these difficult financial times. Our decision to hold groundwater production charges flat is different from the statewide trend. Many agencies across California are adopting double-digit increases.

The water district will continue to deliver high quality products and services to the community in the most efficient way possible. For more information on budget specifics, please contact Susan Siravo at (408) 265-2600.

As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for Sunnyvale, Alviso, Milpitas, Berryessa/Alum Rock communities, east of Highway 101 to the Evergreen community area. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707.

Director Richard Santos
Santa Clara Valley Water District

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