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Madera Irrigation District December

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By Joel Hastings     Ger Bennett BannerThe Madera Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting was Thursday, December 10, 2020 called to order at 2:00 p.m. on the dot by Chair Jim Erickson. With the COVID shut down recently imposed, all were participating virtually on Zoom with only a couple of staff at the office. All five directors were present online. The agenda for the closed session was approved and there were no public comments. The agenda showed there would be consideration of real property negotiations for 13 parcels presented to the District under the offer previously made to acquire land for possible recharge. The board went into closed session at 2:02 p.m. with General Manager Tommy Greci explaining the public members on Zoom would be invited back when they came out, which was at 2:30. The Board saluted the flag and the open meeting was underway.

Public comment was invited for the open session, but none was forthcoming. No conflicts of interest were identified, and Board Secretary Andrea Sandoval presented the first new business item. Assistant Manager Dina Nolan explained that with $2.5 million of unspent funds from the 2020 budget, the recommendation is to apply those funds to capital expenditure projects in 2021, as part of the multi-year improvement plan.

Director Carl Janzen asked where the savings had been accrued. The response from Controller Jennifer Furstenburg was a reduction in groundwater management and consulting costs primarily. Also, many of the capital improvement projects had been done in house by staff instead of by outside contractors.  Smaller savings in several other budget areas were noted. Chair Erickson asked for a motion which was made and seconded with unanimous approval given on a roll call vote.

The next item was consideration of the 2021 annual expense budget, presented by Controller Furstenberg. As line items within budget categories were identified along with the comparable figures from the 2020 budget, the board was invited to discuss.

Furstenburg had consulted with each department head and management in preparing her first budget in her current controller role. The summary budget document in the Board packet shows proposed spending of $22,830,000 which includes water costs of $8,500,000 (37 percent). This estimate is based on recent years’ experience, acknowledging that “Mother Nature” has a big impact on the amounts of water available, or not.

The budget includes operating expenses of $14,330,000.

Assumptions used include 85,000 AF of Class 1 water at 100 percent; no class 2 water supply; 24,000 AF for Hidden Dam projecting 40,000 AF available for delivery; 7,400 AF of Pre-1914 water from Soquel; 2,078 AF of 2020 Class 1 water rescheduled to 2021; and $1,000,000 for additional operations and maintenance charged from the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

The 2021 USBR water rate for Class 1 has increased three percent, Class 2 water rate increased 12 percent, and Hidden Dam water rate has increased by three percent from the revised 2020 rates. The 2021 USBR water rate for Pre-1914 water has not yet been published and this budget assumes no change.

Salaries and benefits amount to 23.6 percent or $5,399,000 of the 2021 budget. It includes a cost-of-living increase for salaried and clerical works of three percent, $25,000 for overtime and merit increases of $135,000.

Capital expenditures and improvements projects amount to $852,000, and detail with photos for purchases of trucks (two pickups and a water tanker) and equipment was included in the material provided the Board and discussed in detail.

Payments on two bonds amount to $4,487,000. It was pointed out that these bonds would mature in 2026 instead of the originally planned 2040 due to aggressive repayment schedules and lower interest rates.

All these are big numbers but the Board, and staff are attentive to detail and here’s one example. For several years MID has provided several sets of uniform shirts and pants to workers which they are responsible for. Talking with his crew, Operations & Maintenance Manager Charles Contreras discovered that his guys didn’t really like them for working in the summer heat. So, after consultation, he now purchases quality logoed tee shirts and provides a stipend so the workers can purchase several pairs of jeans of the brands they prefer, shopping in the local stores. Workers are happier, some dollars stay local and MID spends less money. Not complicated but a good result all around!

On the matter of company clothing for employees, Christina Beckstead, Madera County Farm Bureau executive director, spoke about possible requirements from Sacramento that a company would be responsible for washing company clothing. General Manager Greci said that bridge would have to be crossed if it presented itself.

At this point in the meeting, the MID server went down so Furstenberg couldn’t get back on to present the budget pages she had been displaying to lead the discussion. Beckstead took over as host then passed it back to Greci whose cell phone was providing the hot spot for staff. After some further adjustments via email, Furstenburg was able to continue her budget review by category and line item. Under the circumstances, the amount for computer purchases got special attention.

During the discussion about the purchase of equipment, it was pointed out that when staff does the construction, it amounts to savings of 30 percent under what an independent contractor costs. There were many compliments to Contreras and his crew and a desire by the Board to provide the high-quality equipment they need.

HR Administrator Tanesha Welch presented expected salary and benefits costs described above, noting an eight percent increase in cost of health insurance. Staffing levels remain constant with 60 positions authorized. Chair Erickson praised the high quality and team effort of the employees.

The budget resolution was moved, seconded and passed unanimously.  Controller Furstenburg was praised for the detailed presentation. Director Janzen, with his characteristic tongue in cheek humor, said the budget looks good given the fact it doesn’t show any income. This group knows too well no income can be calculated until the amount of available water is known in the spring. This prompted a bit of discussion about moving the financial plan to a water season rather than the current calendar year. Manager Greci said this will continue to be considered as to how a transition might be handled. He thanked the Board members for their support. The meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.

The next meeting will be the regular monthly session on December 15 beginning at 1:00 p.m.

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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637             559/673-3514

Staff: General Manager -Thomas Greci, Assistant GM – Dina Nolan

Board: Dave Loquaci, Rick Cosyns, Brian Davis, Jim Erickson and Carl Janzen

HISTORY: From The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres. MID operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canal systems as well as 150 miles of large diameter pipelines.

The District has a Central Valley Project (CVP) repayment contract with United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) providing up to 85,000 acre feet (AF) of Class 1 and 186,000 AF of Class 2 water per year from the Friant Division (Millerton Lake). The CVP water is released from Millerton Lake through the Friant Dam, and then conveyed through the Madera Canal for delivery into the District’s service area. The District also entered into a CVP repayment contract with the USBR for the yield from the Hidden Unit (Hensley Lake). Under the Hidden Unit contract, the average annual supply available to the District is approximately 24,000 AF per year.

DWR SGMA # 5-022.06