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The Community Services District board received a budget at its May meeting that calls for a 1.3 percent increase in our bills starting in July. The board was also encouraged to call for more community meetings on development.

Budget sets average bill increase at 1.3 percent

CSD staff presented a budget with an increase for the average customer behind the gates of 1.32 percent, or $2.22 a month. For residents of Murieta Village, the increase is slightly under 1 percent, or $1.21 a month.

The board will vote on the budget next month. The impact on ratepayers can be lessened but not increased before that vote. The budget would take effect July 1.

General Manager Darlene Thiel outlined the expense assumptions, including an estimated 2 percent raise for represented employees and a 3.5 percent pay-for-performance pool for unrepresented employees. She also showed graphs where CSD rates compare favorably to costs in surrounding communities.

You can see Thiel's budget presentation here.

CSD is urged to call for public development meetings

Director John Merchant emphasized that the CSD’s response to the county about development should request public meetings that allow residents to ask questions, which hasn’t been the case so far. He said the previous two meetings limited public input.

General Manager Darlene Thiel said CSD responses are usually restricted to impact on district services, a point seconded by Director Les Clark, who said Thiel’s advice in the past has been to “steer clear of the land-use decisions and discussions.”

“I’m not talking about land use; I’m talking about the project in general,” said Merchant, who is also a leader of the Saving Our Lakes & Open Spaces group. He remarked – as he has repeatedly – that neither the CSD nor the Rancho Murieta Association seems to own the issue of traffic in the area and development. 

Merchant also encouraged Thiel to ask the county for a 90-day extension for its response once the CSD receives development technical studies, which are needed for the CSD to assess the development plans.

Board gets reports on future projects to help set new fees

John Griffin, a senior engineer with Coastland Civil Engineering Inc., presented reports on future CSD capital improvement projects and water-supply augmentation projects to help set a fee structure for future development. You can see his presentation here. There’s more information in the board packet for the meeting, starting on page 39. 

The reports, which the CSD calls “technical memorandums,” are a soup-to-nuts list of potential future CSD work. Griffin said the reports looked at projects that have been on the books for 20 years, so a number of them were deleted. Conversely, new projects were added, he said.

The capital improvement list identified 21 projects at a total cost of almost $7.4 million. The water-supply augmentation study identified 20 projects in two phases at a cost of about $13.4 million.

Development representative John Sullivan offered testy comments about how the capital-improvement costs would be divided between present Murietans, who will benefit from the expenditures, and future Murietans – the customers for future development.  “You don’t even have a theory on who’s in and who’s out on paying that capital improvement fee,” he said. 

After several minutes of back and forth with Sullivan on the first study, Mark Pecotich, board president, moved the board along, saying Sullivan had exceeded the three minutes granted to speakers.

With minor adjustments, the board unanimously approved the studies. They’ll be the foundation of an ordinance that will be brought to the board at its June 21 meeting, and it should be on the calendar for adoption at the July board meeting. The new fees would take effect in August.

In other business...

  • The board unanimously voted to bring back Ed Crouse, the former general manager, as interim general manager until Darlene Thiel’s replacement is settled into the job. Thiel will leave the CSD in early July for a position in Florida. Crouse will start work June 12.
  • On the heels of April’s walking trails meeting by the CSD and Rancho Murieta Association, development representative John Sullivan suggested that the community’s Parks Committee – with representation from the development community, CSD and RMA – hold a public meeting on the question of trails, so the community has a chance to offer its views about what kind of trails we want.
  • The board approved spending $7,230 for two additional chemical treatments before June 30 to address midge flies in Laguna Joaquin. Director Jerry Pasek was the lone “no” vote.
  • The board unanimously approved spending $23,470 for a Ford F-150 truck. The truck it’s replacing is 14 years old and has more than 120,000 miles. “Mileage doesn’t paint the picture,” said Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations, who explained that CSD trucks have a rough life.

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