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SSJID budget calls for more services while growing reserves

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POSTED November 24, 2009 4:52 a.m.

Manteca Unified cut $32 million from its current budget.

The City of Manteca had to reduce expenses by $14 million.

The State of California is now facing a $21 billion deficit by June 30.

And in all three cases capital improvement projects are coming to a standstill unless they are being finished up with previous years’ funding or else being jump started with federal stimulus dollars.

Each is also cutting deeply into reserves to try and keep cutbacks in services at a minimum.

It’s the same story with various degrees of cuts form virtually every government agency up and down the Golden State. Among the rare exceptions, though, is the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

When the SSJID board meets today at 9 a.m. at the district office, 11011 East Highway 120 they will consider adopting an overall non-capital spending plan of $19.5 million against revenues of $21.5 million to allow them to further increase their reserves.

At the same time the district is investing $22.3 million in capital improvements – primarily for main canal improvements for the irrigation system and creating a forced system to allow drip irrigation southwest of Manteca. The capital outlay also includes $1 million to help get the district ready to enter retail power business should they be successful with their application next spring at the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission. The goal is to reduce power costs to users in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon 15 percent across the board.

The SSJID, which is entering its 101st year, has not raised water rates or taxes for more than 20 years. Their undistributed reserves are pushing $70 million thanks to long range planning that is allowing them to reap the benefits of the Tri-Dam Project’s hydroelectric sales that they are using as the foundation to establish retail sales and lower costs if they gain permission to do so.

Several times in the past 20 years the district has been so successful in managing resources that the cost of actual water deliveries to farmers has been suspended for a year on two occasions.

It is unheard of in California today for a government agency not to reduce services, to expand its revenues and to undertake major capital improvement projects to essentially improve the services they deliver.

The board will also consider adopting an employee wellness program that may cost upwards of $10,000.

Under the plan, each employee will receive a quarterly safety award of $25 when they do not use any sick leave, have any lost time accidents, unexcused absences, or take a leave of absence in excess of five days.

If they have three straight quarters of bonuses, they will receive an additional $100.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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