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Guest View: Utility district director calls for rate freeze

Ernie Claudio

Hi, this is Ernie Claudio, and I am on the Board of Directors of the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD). These are my thoughts on the proposed budget. The public meeting was May 15, and the district is proposing a 4 percent rate increase.

— While Rhonda McFarlane (chief financial officer) was answering a question, she made the following statement: “We can cut the Capital Improvement Projects in half and not increase the rates, but it will cost more later.” This is common knowledge at the district. A rate freeze is possible, but eventually the projects will have to be completed – pay now or pay later.

— In my opinion, the district staff is the finest in the world, and the loss of Rhonda McFarlane (she is relocating) in monumental. I am confident the staff can go a year without a rate increase and still deliver the fine services they are known for.

— President Bush says we are winning the war, and we are not in a recession. A few people might think we are winning the war, but all of us know we are in a recession. A rate freeze is the appropriate action in times of recession.

— Many customers are desperately trying to make ends meet and they need help and they need it now; a rate freeze would be greatly appreciated by those who are struggling.

— Businesses are closing in our town at an alarming rate. A rate freeze by the district would help slow this trend; it’s the right thing to do.

— In years past, with excellent foresight, the staff at the district has managed to set aside millions of dollars in a prudent reserve in case a time should come when a rate increase was unavailable. Now is the perfect time to use this money to help the community.

Please understand this is not fun for me. This letter and my actions to promote a rate freeze are hurting my relationships at the district. These people are the finest, most talented people in the world, bar none; we are so lucky to have them. When the district was formed, the city’s water system was a mess. We hired these people and told them to fix it, and that is exactly what they have done – they have done everything we’ve asked and far more. Each one of them deserves a medal and our deepest “thank you.”

– Ernie Claudio is a director of the South Tahoe Public Utility District.


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