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$72M investment war chest
SSJID revenues up, employee pay up & 23rd year of no price hikes
SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields, left, and SSJID Engineering Department Manager Sam Bologna discuss the Division 9 drip irrigation delivery system project. - photo by HIME ROMERO

South San Joaquin Irrigation District is a rarity among government entities.

While virtually every jurisdiction from cities to the federal government are dealing with falling revenue, furloughs to reduce labor costs, and pulling back on major expenses while scrambling to find new ways to generate taxes and fees the SSJID is doing the opposite.

And that is on top of ending 2011 with a projected $72 million in reserves that is more than double the cost of running the entire district for a year.

The proposed 2012 SSJID irrigation budget includes:

• A $3.6 million increase in revenue.

• The 23rd consecutive year of unchanged irrigation rates.

• $11.2 million invested in capital improvement projects.

• Negotiated cost-of-living increases for SSJID employees.

• A conservative $8 million distribution to the SSJID of its share of Tri-Dam Project revenue that is in excess of operating expenses for the wholesale power system.

The receipts from the Tri-Dam Project - as well as water sales to other districts - are allowing the SSJID to essentially build a $72 million investment war chest. The $72 million in reserves projected for Dec. 31 of this year is after making major outlays during 2011 approaching $15 million for a state-of-the-art drip irrigation delivery system in Division 9 south of Manteca, canal refurbishing, and funding the ongoing effort to secure retail power sale authority.

 The district plans to tap into the reserves to finance the purchase of the PG&E delivery system within SSJID boundaries to reduce the power costs of all retail users in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon by 15 percent. Before they can do that, though, they need to get the go ahead from the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission in early 2012.

PA Consulting - a firm working for LAFCo - concluded that it was indeed feasible for SSJID to deliver lower priced retail power based on the value they believed the PG&E system is worth which was considerably more than SSJID’s estimate. By committing $39 million of the $70 million the district has stashed away from Tri-Dam proceeds upfront, plus borrowing, and infusing $15 million a year until those bonds are paid off, the independent consultant recommended by PG&E determined SSJID could indeed deliver power at 15 percent under PG&E’s cost.

The budget includes a projected $27,280,850 in revenues against $26,179,301 in expenses.

The board will review the budget during Tuesday’s 9 a.m. meeting at the district office, 1101 E. Highway 120.