he Bear Valley Community Services District (BVCSD) has been serving the community of Bear Valley Springs for 50 years. The infrastructure we care for is vital to our everyday lives. The Bear Valley Springs of 2020 is a bedroom community with a full-time population of around 8,000 people. It has grown far beyond the part-time resort community that the infrastructure was built for.
The last sewer rate increases, in 2012 & 2008, covered the inflation amount to “break even “, but did not generate enough revenue to address capital maintenance items or additional inflation. The Wastewater plant was understaffed and they lacked the necessary funds to provide maintenance on the collection system and critical operations equipment. Now our infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life, and the reserve funds are depleted. A rate adjustment is critical to continued operation.
Roughly 500 homes located inside the Lower Valley Road loop are on the sewer system. In this area, the water table is too high to permit the installation of septic systems. The sewer system and wastewater treatment plant allowed the development homes and amenities in this area, but monthly fees are the only source of financial support for this utility. The lack of revenue has caused serious issues that we must address:
Revenues must keep up with operational expenses, and we cannot currently afford to continue operations or maintain our equipment, let alone replace it as it fails. For nearly 18 months we were not in compliance with state regulations while our staff lacked the certifications required. During this time, we also lacked the manpower necessary to perform normal system maintenance. Consequently, there were multiple sewage backups during that time. We now have three properly certified, full time personnel on staff, but this has significantly increased operating expenses. The utility has been operating at an average loss of $75,000/yr. since 2014.
We must rebuild financial reserves. All associated sewer funds have been depleted as they were used to cover operational expenses and repair critical failures. Adequate reserves are needed to address unforeseen or emergency expenses, and provide some stabilization of budgets and rates.
We must make capital improvements. Our machinery needs replacement and repair, and a failure could result in sewage backups and overflows in as little as 2-3 hours. Upgrades to modern technologies and materials would greatly improve the safety and efficiency of the system.
Residents own and pay for the utilities that the CSD manages. The Directors on the Board are elected by residents, from among their neighbors, to represent the best interests of the community. This requires cooperation from the community. As the sole stewards of our valley, we residents have a duty to be aware and responsible. It is time now for us, the residents of Bear Valley Springs, to take an honest look at the state of our community. Our willingness to care for our community will affect our daily lives, our homes, and our property values.
The CSD is preparing for the future of Bear Valley Springs. On February 13, 2020, our Board of Directors was presented with a preliminary draft of the Sewer Rate Change Study. This study is now published online. We have scheduled four public meetings to provide residents with a walk-through of our budget and the economic trends that affect us all.
We encourage you to review the study, which is attached to this article, attend the meetings and provide your input. We will incorporate community feedback before presenting the final study to the Board of Directors at the March 12, 2020 meeting.