Sahuarita math fail: Water company seeking rate hike but flubs numbers

Two years ago, the Sahuarita Town Council settled a condemnation case with Farmers Water that allowed Global Water Resources Inc. to buy the old pecan farm water system and operate it for town residents.

The private corporation now wants a rate increase of $6.61 to pay for “significant system upgrades” and insists the new price for water customers would not optimize profits. In fact, in a presentation scheduled for the town council on Monday, the utility says it will “forego profitability” to keep rates comparatively low.

Global Water is a privately held, publicly traded corporation. They say they are willing to “forego profitability,” do they?

Riiiiiiiiigghhhhhtt…

Companies with stocks that are traded don’t do that. Like, ever.

The company knows what kind of rate hike it can expect to get OKed by the Arizona Corporation Commission, and it has set its request accordingly. At the same time, it is promising to make significant improvements to the water system.

Global Water points out that the bill for a customer using 3,500 gallons per month runs about $15.48 and the average water bill for the area is $29.85. The next cheapest for that usage is $21.47.

Numbers provided by the firm also show the basic services charges run well behind the area’s other providers, too. They ran the numbers. They know the numbers.

I’ve had sinking fears about this deal that aren’t helped when Global Water absolutely bombs elementary-school math.

The problem: they don’t know how percentages work. Seriously, it’s like they had journalism majors run the numbers.

Here’s something basic about percentages: they are not interchangeable.

If I go from 2 to 3, that’s a 50 percent increase. If I go from 3 to 2, that’s a 33 percent decrease. Percentage don’t work the same way backwards.

If I go from 1 to 3, then I’ve increased by 300 percent. If I go from 3 to 1, I’ve decreased by 67 percent (-ish).

The company’s presentation to the Sahuarita council makes a big deal out of comparing its bill to other local water providers and expressing the difference in percentages and doing it wrong.

Global Water’s basic service charge is $9.49 a month. The next cheapest is Green Valley’s water company, which charges $15.87.

Yes, Global Water, the higher number is 67 percent more than the lower. No, Global Water, your price is not 67 percent less than Green Valley.

Your price is about 40 percent cheaper than Green Valley but the claim is 67 because they believe, apparently, that percentages do work the same backwards.

And I don’t even know what to say about the quality of 2020s MBAs, when they try to tell us that $9.49 is 135 percent cheaper than the average basic service cost of $25.33.

Nothing is 135 percent less than anything. Reduce any number by 100 percent and the result is zero. Reduce by 135 percent, and… are there alternate dimensions involved?

A quick guestimate says $9.49 is 60 percent (-ish) cheaper than the average.

I don’t mean to be a jerk about this, but the entirety of the rate case hangs on the fact that Global Water has done the math – and done it correctly – to justify charging customers more.

Are you reading, Arizona Corporation Commission auditors?

I’m not saying a rate increase isn’t justified or even necessary. But c’mon, this is playing very fast and extra loose with numbers presented to elected officials.

Anyway, my guess is that Global Water bought the Farmers Water system and figured they could instantly justify a dramatic rate increase.

So a price hike was always going to be part of the deal.

They filed a request for a rate hike with the Corp Comm in 2023 but do not expect a final decision for a year.

The Sahuarita council will also vote Monday on a $300,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help enforce immigration laws.

The oft-controversial program is called Operation Stonegarden. The idea behind it is to pair local law enforcement, commissioned to enforce state laws, with federal agents who can’t do that.

So, a police officer spots a driver speeding with a bunch of passengers “believed to be suspected of” improperly being in the United States. The cop pulls the driver over and then a Border Patrol agent can check the status of a carload of people.

The grant is for overtime because local officers still have to do their job enforcing state and local laws. They do Stonegarden work on the side. Other local jurisdictions backed off participating in the program years ago, after plenty of folks raised a public ruckus over it.

Deseg shuffle

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will vote on budget changes that are possible now that the district is out from under federal court supervision of desegregation programs.

Just because the decades-old court order went away doesn’t mean the district has to forfeit the $61 million in extra spending capacity it has long tapped to deal with deseg issues.

The difference is, now changes don’t have to go to the court for approval.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo wants to use deseg money to keep paying for teachers to provide academic interventions. That’s where a student having trouble with a subject is immediately pulled aside to give them some focused instruction on what they are having trouble understanding. It can involve sending the student out of the classroom or just taking them off somewhere quiet.

The idea is: Don’t let them fall behind for a moment.

The program was paid for by federal coronavirus relief funding, which is now going away.

So Trujillo wants to slide that program into deseg, so it will be exempt from constitutional spending limits.

This is happening around Tucson. The feds gave local governments extra money and those governments were able to embark on new programs that proved effective.

Now the D.C. dollars are disappearing. They want to keep the new programs. Another example of this is how Pima County realized rental assistance can keep people off the streets. The Board of Supervisors is continuing the program but has to squeeze some existing stuff out of the budget.

The TUSD staff is having to do the same to offset the $4.3 million in interventions.

The TUSD board will also consider proposed changes to the code of conduct involving violence, drug use and sexual harassment.

They want to change the language in defining violence so the rules will be “more coherent and defined.”

Now, the rules define assault as an action that causes serious injury. The revision would intentionally or knowingly causing “any physical injury.”

The changes would mean that after a suspension, the offending student would be brought back to school after a “mediation” or “restorative practice.” The victim would also be informed and precautions taken to ensure the safety of all involved.

That’s the idea, anyway.

Also, the code of conduct will be changed to decrease the level of violation for sexual harassment with contact from a level 4 offense to a level 3 offense. Hold on, though, this is for elementary students only.

When I was 10, I listened to my supremely Catholic aunt make a point around the Thanksgiving dinner table in Johnson City, N.Y.

My response? “Jean, you ignorant slut.”

Two decade later, I was walking on the University of Arizona campus with random thoughts fluttering through my head and that memory came back. I actually stopped and started shaking. I did what? I had repressed the memory.

I had no idea what “ignorant slut” meant. It was just something I’d heard about from adults who’d watched Saturday Night Live. Though, by sixth grade, I was fully aware of the social implications. Hence, the repressing of memory I imagine.

So cut the elementary school kids some slack.

Another change is to reduce the offense level of illicit drug sharing from a 5 to a 4 for all grades. The current rules carry a minimum of 11 days suspension and it could run up to 180 days.

The change reduces the suspension time to a maximum of 30 days.

Uh oh. The board will also vote on going out to bid for a new high school health text book.

This can only mean rampant sex in the hallways between classes.

But
fear not, state law requires that the public be given the right to review
such materials to make sure no prurient interests will be piqued.

Board members are also set to allow the administration to extend contracts to all employees
not covered by a union contract. These are administrators with titles
like “director” and “chief operating officer.”

FWUSD jumps boldly into 1990s

Parents at Flowing Wells may soon be notified by email of their kid’s imminent suspension.

The current policy requires the district notify parents by registered mail of a looming suspension hearing.

A change allowing emails as an option will go to the district governing board Tuesday for a vote.

The board will also vote on a policy change to allow all 10-month employees to use their ten days of sick leave as personal days.

Teachers will also be up for raises as the 2024-25 compensation package will be up for a vote along with a plan to provide $500 raises for teachers under a state measure to reward teacher success.

The Catalina Foothills Unified School District Governing Board will get a look
at Superintendent Mary Kamerzell’s annual straw budget. It includes $2.2 million in increased compensation, as the whole operations
budget increases by slightly less than $3 million, mostly from the
state’s “inflation fighter.”

The raises leave room for just paltry increases in other areas – nickel and dime stuff.

Honestly,
the most interesting thing about Kamerzell’s proposed budget is that
she’s the only top administrator in Arizona to call it a “straw budget.”
Everyone else calls it a proposed budget or a “tentative budget.”

It’s
remind me of how my great grandmother (the one in Johnson City)
referred to her couch as a “Davenport,” because one of the first couch
makers was A.H. Davenport Co., and that’s what people of a certain generation called them.

The Cat Foot school board will also consider new academic standards in high school classes teaching early childhood education, history and social science and law and justice.

The administration also wants to increase the standards for the district’s performance award. The standards now require a minimum of 135 “whole student days” of teaching in a school year. The new plan would be to raise that threshold to 162 days, or 90 percent of the school year.

This award is tied to the same state program that pays for teacher performance, known in academic vernacular as the Classroom Site Fund.

Revisionists

The Sunnyside Unified School District is going to hold a public hearing Monday and a vote Tuesday on revisions to its current year budget.

This always happens and everyone is doing it.

Districts plan thinking they are going to get X amount of dollars. They set a tentative budget and spending cap by planning accordingly.

Schools are paid for out of a lot of different sources, which change their calculations throughout the year. They can’t spend those unbudgeted funds until they hold a hearing and have a vote.

In Sunnyside’s case, the Arizona Department of Education approved new funding after the previous budget revision in December. For the district to spend the extra $1.8 million, the board must approve a new budget revision.

The Vail Unified School District Governing Board will hold a similar vote but for different reasons.

Vail wound up with $3.9 million more in fiscal year 2022-23 than budgeted, while it moves $2.1 million from operations to capital at the same time it gets more money from enrollment and a couple recalculations.

In total, Vail will be increasing its budget by $2.2 million.

This doesn’t mean taxes went up.

Vail also received $5.1 million in a one-time chunk from the current state budget.

The district will split that money between a retention bonus for workers and capital projects. The board will vote Tuesday on the bonuses.

That’s on top of the 2 percent raises up for a Tuesday vote for teachers and staff.

Data centers for Marana

The Marana Town Council will hold a study session Tuesday to discuss
changing zoning ordinances to create a category for data centers.

Currently, they are not permitted without a special exception and then only on parcels zoned for industrial use.

The
new designation would include provisions for design, setbacks, building
placement, landscape buffers and all the other considerations when
discussing land use policy.

Zoning
laws are typically written to reflect land uses contemporary to the time
of drafting. Changes in the market and new kinds of industries can be
left out of the rules.

So they need to be updated from time to
time. It’s why town’s don’t have a need for livery stables or water
troughs as the primary form of transportation is no longer horses.