Politics vs water costs (November 9, 2015)

I understand politically why Tony Penna of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company would have to apologize to the leadership in Hesperia and Victorville (Apologies to Hesperia, Victorville, Daily Press, November 9, 2015), but as far as I can tell, everything in Eric Larsen’s Valley Voices op-ed was not only true, but echoed what we already know (Private companies make tough water choices, Daily Press, November 3, 2015).

The gist of Larsen’s piece was that private companies are transparent in terms of where their funding comes from, and what their expenditures are, while municipalities can appear to be charging less for water, by deferring maintenance and using funds from other taxes and fees to make up any shortfall. It may not be polite to point this out, but it’s certainly no secret.

Ranchos itself in 2010 and 2014 produced comparison charts of water costs here in the high desert. In each case, private water company published rates were higher than the published rates of local municipalities, but lower than the full (i.e. actual) price of water from those same sources.

In 2011, a San Bernardino County Grand Jury investigation found significant improprieties in the handling of Victorville Water District funds.

In 2015, a California State Auditor’s report found, Public utilities, on the other hand, receive revenues from additional sources, such as property taxes. This report, too, was sharply critical of Victorville’s handling of funds.

Since then, there has been a report that the Victorville Water District has a $7.5 million funding gap this year, and will be bankrupt by 2018-2019 if it doesn’t raise rates and get its house in order.

The bottom line is that it often seems to take litigation by a team of attorneys and accountants to pry loose actual revenue and expense information from municipalities where water delivery is concerned. The finances of Ranchos Water and Golden State Water, on the other hand, are completely transparent. And because of that transparency, they are constantly engaged in a balancing act to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.

It’s not mysterious, it’s the well-known difference between capitalism (AKA private water companies) and socialism (AKA municipal water agencies), and as Margaret Thatcher astutely pointed out, socialism only works until you run out of someone else’s money.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.

Published: Daily Press