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SSJID remains financially sound amid economic crisis

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POSTED December 21, 2008 1:04 a.m.
Manteca Unified is looking to cut $14 million from its upcoming budget.
The City of Manteca needs to reduce expenses by as much as $8 million for its 2009-10 spending plan.
The State of California is facing a deficit that could balloon to $40 billion over the next 20 months.
The story is the same with almost every other government agency in California. One of the exceptions is the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
The SSJID board is meeting Tuesday at 9 p.m. at the district office, 11011 E. Highway 120 to consider adopting the operating budget for 2009.
The water agency expects to generate $28.8 million in revenues in 2009 against $24.6 million in expenses leaving them a $4.2 million cushion. The district is also under taking $20.2 million in capital improvements in 2009.
The current 2008 budget was pegged at $29.5 million in revenue against $20.1 million in expenses.
After 11 months, the district has generated $23.2 million in revenues against $18.1 million in expenses.
The SSJID board purposely cut its revenues this year giving up $1.5 million in water charges for farmers who were current on their district bills at the end of 2007. It was part of what the board refers to as sharing its Tri-Dam Project benefits that are being generated after the SSJID and its partner Oakdale Irrigation District finished paying off 50-year bonds on the reservoir system on the Stanislaus River. Each district is now collecting in excess of $10 million annually after expenses as their cut of Tri-Dam hydroelectric sales.
The SSJID hasn’t imposed a property tax rate increase in over 15 years.
The 2007 audit report lists the district’s net assets at $275.1 million.
The SSJID is one of the few — if not the only —irrigation district in California that developed its own reservoirs and water conveyance systems without any state or federal help. By relying on local bonds the district built a system — as well as the Tri-Dam Project along with the Oakdale Irrigation District — that is paying huge dividends.
It has put the district in a position to follow through on a board commitment to harness the Tri-Dam Project to benefit farmers, residents, and businesses within its service territory of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon. And the way they want to do that is to reduce electricity costs for everyone within their boundaries by 15 percent across the board by entering the retail power business after being in the wholesale side of the equation for more than 55 years.
It also is allowing the district to undertake three years worth of canal improvements and other irrigation projects this winter at a savings in excess of 20 percent. They are also putting in a state-of-the-art pressure system to allow drip irrigation southwest of Manteca.
SSJID is building reserves not only at a time when most jurisdictions are siphoning off what they set aside in previous years to maintain service levels but while they waived water charges for irrigation water delivery for 2008. It is akin to a city suspending all fees for a year, increasing the level of service, and still putting aside money from its general fund accounts for future projects and reserves.
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