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TID plans for flat 2013 budget
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The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors began planning for the 2013 budget on Tuesday, Oct. 23, receiving a preliminary overview of what looks to be a year of largely flat spending.

But that flat spending is only possible due to a tightening of belts across TID administrations.

"In order to achieve this, there have been some pretty significant cuts made," said TID Assistant General Manager of Financial Services and CFO Joe Malaski. "You can budget anything, but the question is can you live with it?"

Because of the tight budgets, Malaski said many departments may be asking for mid-year allocations to address unforeseen needs, or to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

TID's non-capital project budget calls for a net zero increase over 2012 spending, with the exception of $2.2 million in increased pension costs, $140,000 in negotiation costs, $300,000 in property and liability insurance, $900,000 in medical costs, $500,000 in bad debts, and $300,000 in gasoline and diesel.

Despite those new charges, the year-over-year increase in spending is projected to tally just $919,403, due to the slimmer administration budgets.

Some of the savings will come from fewer TID employees; the preliminary 2013 budget includes 456 allocated positions, down six from 462 in the 2012 approved budget. According to TID General Manager Casey Hashimoto, the eliminated positions are not currently filled.

Among the eliminated positions is the Education Specialist position; that employee took a new position, and TID decided to continue operating the programs that employee developed through the public information department, rather than hire a new employee. Some positions will be added, too, including a new dam safety engineer and a control systems cyber security analyst.

The 2013 budget is the first to reflect a major organizational shift, with the Water Operations, Construction & Maintenance Administration disbanded. The division's 106 employees will be subsumed into the Water Resources Administration.

That shift occurred earlier this year, when WOCM Assistant General Manager Keith Cargill retired. Rather than replace him, the administration was consolidated, saving TID money.

Further details on the cuts will be made clear on Tuesday, when budget discussions continue with a detailed breakdown of the General Manager and Financial Service Administration budgets. Water Resource and Power Supply Administration budgets will follow on Nov. 6. Resource Management, Planning, and Rates, will conclude discussions on Nov. 20.

"It looks good to me," Frantz said. "I like it. I like what I see."

TID directors are projected to adopt budgets for the Walnut Energy Center Authority and the Tuolumne Wind Power Authority on Nov. 20. Directors are scheduled to adopt the full TID budget, including rate changes, on Dec. 12.

That adoption will include an electric rate increase, part of a three-year stepped rate increase approved in 2011 to offset the rising costs of meeting state renewable energy requirements. The increase was the district's first since 2009, when rates went up 15 percent system wide.

Rates rose 4 percent on Jan. 1, and will rise 4 percent Jan. 1, 2013, and a further 4 percent Jan. 1, 2014. The 2013 increase will amount to $5 per month on most consumers' bills.