by David Parent, Superintendent of the Sanford Water District
The Sanford Water District is a quasi-municipal entity, consumer owned, chartered by the Maine Legislature. The District is owned by the consumers it serves. We have three elected Trustees who serve three year terms, so one is up for election every year. The primary duty of the Trustees is oversight, mostly financial, but also on policy issues. They are the elected representatives of the customers we serve. Each month the Trustees are presented with a full set of financials that we go over and discuss, and they are given an update on any ongoing projects.
Trustees vote on and authorize all individual capital expenditures. Normal operational expenses and debt service are authorized through the annual budget, then they receive a budget update at their monthly meetings. Capital items, however, are voted on as needed. This gives the Trustees the opportunity to assess the need for any capital expenditure, and to decide if revenues are sufficient. We have an annual audit where an auditing firm reports their findings to the Trustees, along with a letter summarizing the report and any issues they may find.
Our budgeting process is different than the traditional municipal budgeting process that a town or city goes through. Our finances are tightly regulated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The District’s rates are set based on specific regulations, then we are required to “live within our means”. Water District Trustees cannot simply decide to raise rates, the rates must be “just and reasonable” as per Maine Public Utilities Commission rules and regulations.
Each year we project operation expenses and then put together a capital budget based on revenues we expect to generate in excess of projected operational expenses. If less revenue than projected comes in, we spend less on capital items. If more than expected comes in, we can spend more on capital items. Much like someone’s household budget – you pay your bills before buying anything extra. Major capital projects are funded through debt service.
Trustees are also responsible for hiring the Superintendent; seeing that the District complies with all applicable laws and regulations; and acting as liaisons between the District, its customers, and regulators.