Tahoe district to unveil proposed budget
South Shore residents will have a chance Thursday to examine and comment on the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s proposed $19 million budget.
The nighttime hearing will be followed by another at the district’s May 15 meeting, when the district’s board of directors will vote on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
As proposed, the South Tahoe district will spend $12.2 million for sewer operations and capital improvements, and $6.7 million to operate the water system and make improvements.
In a concession to the economic hardship dealt by the New Year’s Day flood, the district is proposing to drop the 3.5-percent sewer rate hike approved last year, and nearly cut in half the increase in water rates. The residential water rate of $81.25 a quarter would rise by 3.5 percent, but the sewer rate would remain at $63.72 a quarter.
With the district facing another $20 million in work to complete the replacement of its aging sewer export line, the district is hoping to secure a $22.25 million Safe Drinking Water Act grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. To increase its chances, the district is proposing to pay $60,000 to a Washington D.C. lobbying firm next year to help it secure the five-year grant.
This year, the district paid $124,800 to the firm of Holland and Knight, but the money was pulled from contingency funds, said Julie Regan, the district’s public information officer.
“They’re the experts. They’re the ones with contacts in Washington,” Regan said about the lobbying firm. “When you are looking at the need to raise $20 million, the board felt it was worth it to try.”
The proposed $60,000 lobbying budget would be split in half, with $30,000 going toward the House appropriation process this year and the remainder for the next four years’ budget cycle.
Three district officials visited Washington earlier this year to lobby for the EPA grant, but were disappointed when congressional budget leaders later dropped a $2.25 million grant from the budget.
State and federal elected officials are supporting the district in its lobbying effort. Rep. John Doolittle, Assemblyman Thomas “Rico” Oller and state Sen. Tim Leslie have each written Rep. Jerry Lewis, who chairs the House subcommittee, appealing for Safe Drinking Water funds for the Tahoe Basin.
The district has a special need for such assistance, the officials stated, because of the mandate it is under to export treated wastewater out of the Tahoe Basin. The district spent $10 million in the last year to replace six miles of the line, but still has 21 miles to go.
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