Executive Director's Message

Executive Director Elizabeth Allan

Elizabeth Allan, Executive Director

This Executive Director’s Note is full of news from our June 29-30, 2012 Board workshop and meeting at which the Board approved our FY 12-13 program of work and budget.

There are a number of “storyboards” to share with you this issue that give context for our FY 12-13 budget, our dues increase (the first in 4 years), and our investment in a new Association Management System (AMS) from our Project Fund.  And I also wanted to point you to our most current dashboard showing the metrics the Board tracks to monitor progress on our strategic plan.  We review this dashboard at every Board meeting.

Board approves FY 12-13 program of work and invests in infrastructure improvement project…On June 30th, the Board approved CWEA’s FY 12-13 budget to continue to fulfill our core mission to train and certify water environment professionals.  Our FY 12-13 budget maintains our core programs and member benefits with the first dues increase since 2008 and keeps other fees affordable.  You’ll continue to see the membership benefits that have fueled CWEA’s growth into the largest state association of water environment professionals in the country. We’re planning to build upon the strength of our more than 9,200 members to reach out to others in our profession and grow even stronger together.

First dues increase in 4 years…As I’ve been reporting in previous issues of the Executive Director’s Message, the Board has been in discussion all year analyzing the need to raise membership dues. The Board has held dues at the 2008 level for the last four years despite rising costs because we have been mindful of the economic challenges we faced together across the state. The Board also kept conference registration fees low to make training more affordable. In 2010, the Board approved modest increases in certification fees spread over four years to help cover revalidation costs that ensure the ongoing validity of the program. We cut expenditures across our organization, eliminated staff positions, reduced staff benefits, reduced Wastewater Professional from 4 issues per year to 3, and deferred maintenance on our infrastructure (our Association Management System, AMS). We tapped into our Project Fund to cover operational expenses rather than raise fees because we were sensitive to these tough times. We’ve now reached the point at which we cannot delay raising our fees if we are to ensure that the association remains sustainable and strong. To see this info in a one-page picture format, take a look at the dues storyboard.

Our Fiscal Year 12-13 budget is based on projections for membership as well as certification applications and renewals built on an average of actuals for the past three years.  The Board also considered the slowly recovering economy and assumptions about the key drivers in the water environment sector (including regulation and enforcement).

Project Fund spending…The program of work also includes spending $532,000 from the Project Fund to cover specific projects — an infrastructure investment in a new AMS, certification test revalidation, volunteer leadership training and a volunteer engagement project, and funding for Tri-TAC’s pesticide project – as well as to cover a portion of operating expenses. Check out the budget storyboard for more budget highlights.

Certification prep initiative…The FY 12-13 program of work includes expanded certification prep sessions across the state to help guide applicants though a series of steps needed for exam success, and investing in revalidating the Electrical/Instrumentation certification tests to keep our certification program up-to-date with workplace advancements.

Replacing our Association Management Sysytem (AMS)…You’ve been hearing a lot about the work we’re doing to replace our Association Management System (AMS) and we’re pleased to tell you that you’ll be hearing a lot more. The next 12-15 months will be exciting  as we begin replacing our outdated infrastructure and building the foundation for the future.

Our AMS consultant conducted interviews with all staff members as well as with representatives from three local sections (small, medium, large) and the Tri-State Seminar Committee to develop an assessment of our existing and emerging operational needs. After this analysis, the Consultant developed a Request for Proposal (RFP) with 300+ requirements and sent out it out across the information technology spectrum. We received four proposals ranging in cost from $214k to $700k, with estimated ongoing annual costs ranging from about $51k to $99k.  With the help of our AMS Consultant, staff narrowed our focus to two frontrunners that best met our needs with the most reasonable price tag and strongest track records. Two companies presented full-day overviews of their systems to our staff, and Avectra was chosen with unanimous enthusiasm.

Replacing our Association Management System is budgeted to cost $380,000 for implementation in FY 12-13.  In the years following implementation we have budgeted $54,000 in annual licensing fees to maintain the AMS and $30,000 per year in staff/consulting support to help us use the system to its fullest extent. We’ve saved for the new AMS implementation in our Project Fund – just as you would save for a capital improvement project – and are ready to make this critical investment for CWEA.

That means we’ll be able to better serve our existing members and be poised for growth with our new AMS and ready to take CWEA into the future. Next, Avectra will conduct a week of staff interviews to start configuring our new system. The AMS will be fully functional over the summer/fall of 2013, after we’ve passed our peak spring training window.  We’re taking the time to set up a system that will meet our needs and are avoiding high-use periods so we can ensure the best customer service possible during the transition. See the AMS storyboard.

First member dues increase ($8) since 2008. Conference fees stay the same. Certification application fees go up $5 and renewal fees go up $2…With every budget,  the Board looks at the pricing of all of the products and services that CWEA provides – to both members and nonmembers – taking into account CWEA’s need for sustainability and as well as our fiscal realities. This year, the Board couldn’t delay another year and raised dues for the first time since 2008 by $8 (6%).  See the dues storyboard for more detail and context.

In order to cover ongoing revalidation costs to keep certification tests job-related and defensible, we are in our third year of modest certification fee increases over four years that the Board approved in June 2010.  FY 12-13 raises certification application fees by $5 and renewal fees by $2. The Board continues to invest into the program from the Project Fund to minimize the impact of fee increases on our certificate-holders.

Certification FY 12-13 Application Fee – CWEA Member Price
(non-members add $140)
Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4
$140 $155 $170 $185
Certification FY 12-13 Renewal Fee – CWEA Member Price

(non-members add $140)

Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4
$75 $80 $91 $93

New certification prep sessions will debut in
FY 12-13…
To support our members as they prepare for CWEA’s certification exams, we’ll be dedicating more volunteer and staff resources to certification prep in FY 12-13.  The Training Coordination Committee (TCC), the Certification Prep Task Force (CPTF) and CWEA staff will provide support to the CWEA Local Sections identified by the Southern and Northern Regional Committees (SRC and NRC) as responsible for running official cert prep sessions.  The project includes:

  • clarifying and communicating the purpose of a cert prep session (particularly distinguishing it from a training session on how to perform the skills tested)
  • developing and communicating an agenda and learning objectives for cert prep sessions
  • assisting the Local Section to find moderators,  developing marketing & flyers, promoting events by e-mail, handling registration (online registration will be offered and credit cards accepted), and providing event badges/sign in sheets,  with online surveys after the sessions we’ll return 100% of the registration fees  collected at the State level to the CWEA Local Sections after each event.
  • For FY12-13 we plan to support 3 sessions in CWEA’s southern region and 3 sessions in our northern region, with locations to be determined by the SRC and NRC.

Path to certification under construction…While everyone would love to sign up and just take a test to become certified, we all know that it takes a lot more time and effort.  With new people coming into our field every day, we thought it was a great time to start communicating more clearly how to prepare for a CWEA certification exam.  In FY12-13, CWEA will develop and communicate to our members and applicants how they can better prepare for certification before they even apply to take the test.  We’ll be relying on our leaders to help share the message, look for more info in the coming months.

Thinking ahead for certification…The Board did some strategic thinking together to identify and prioritize strategic issues that CWEA needs to consider with respect to its certification program.  The Technical Certification Program Executive Committee expects to undertake its next strategic planning effort in FY 13-14 and will consider the priority issues identified by the Board.

Regional Committees to develop Quarter Century Recognition Program…CWEA’s Regional Committees (NRC and SRC) are a forum for Local Section and State Committee communication and collaboration.  The Board gave the Regional Committees the authority to develop a quarter century recognition program, which has been generating a swell of grassroots excitement over the last several months. The program will be loosely modeled after WEF’s Quarter Century Award, which recognizes people with 25 years of service to the water environment field. Come to your Regional Committee Meeting to get involved and help move this exciting project forward.

Local Section & Committee Budgets Approved…The Board approved budgets for local sections and committees (P3S committee budget was amended).

In other news…Operator Certification regulations amendments…CWEA plays an active role with the State Water Board’s Office of Operator Certification’s Advisory Committee and in providing training for Operators throughout the State.  CWEA recommends two nominees to the Advisory Committee.  Our current nominees serving on the Advisory Committee are Hugh Logan and Chris Berch.  They provide input to the State on a regular basis and keep the CWEA State Board updated on pending changes and issues.

The State Water Board’s Office of Operator Certification recently published proposed amendments to regulations for Wastewater Treatment Plant Classification, and Operator Certification, and Contract Operator Registration.   CWEA’s Board believes the proposed changes will be significant and encourage all stakeholders to review and comment during the Public Comment period, which is now underway.  Public written comments are due July 30th and there will be a public hearing on August 7th.  You can find details on CWEA’s website and on the State Water Board’s website.

Next Board meeting…The next CWEA state Board meeting will be September 12, 2012 in Modesto, CA, as part of the Northern Regional Training Conference.  Committee quarterly reports, informational items, and requests for Board action are due August 23rd.

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