Sunday, January 15, 2017

Council to Consider Less Recycling for Increased Bulk Pickup

San Angelo's city staff will propose changes to trash collection for Council to consider this Tuesday.  The 1-17-17 City Council background packet states:

Providing every other week bulk pick‐up and every other week collection of recyclable.  

Provider shall manage the initial delivery of one additional Recyclables cart for each residential address that subscribes to waste collection services.  Delivery of additional Recyclables carts shall occur only if requested by a residential customer that subscribes to waste collection services. Residential customers that request delivery of one additional Recyclables cart shall not be charged for delivery provided the request is made within 6 months of the effective date.
 Citizens who fill their recycling cart every week can get a second cart delivered free.

If a customer desires additional cart(s) beyond one for Acceptable Waste and one for Recyclables, then City may charge such customer for the carts in accordance with the fee schedule approved by City Council.
The city provided Exhibits A and F to clarify fees.

Exhibit F leads one to belief the second recycling cart will cost citizens as the base price only cites one recycling cart.  Exhibit A states:  Additional cart fee – recycling (beyond 2 carts).

For now it appears current citizens can request a second recycling cart and not be charged extra.  What happens after the six month window?  Will citizens have to pay both a delivery and monthly fee for an extra recycling bin?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hirshfeld Energy Ready to Refund City $1.4 Million

San Angelo City Council will entertain a resolution delineating the distribution of the $1.4 million refund from Hirschfeld Energy for the failure of former joint venture Martifer-Hirschfeld to fulfill new job promises.  The city and Hirschfeld reached agreement in May 2016.

The resolution states the $1.4 million will be reduced by the cost of attorney fees, then split evenly between the City of San Angelo and its Development Corporation.  City Council documents do not specify how much attorney's fees cost.  It will be interesting to hear if that comes out during Tuesday's meeting. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fifty Degree Drop

I'd just finished mowing the back yard and had a light sweat going as I put the lawnmower back in the garage.  A huge northerly gust blew leaves and dust over the house and I could feel the coolness.  I closed the garage door to keep the heat in and drove my toasty warm car to the gas pump.  I watched the temperature indicator drop from 81 degrees to 47 in less than an hour.  It read 27 degrees a few minutes ago.  That's a 54 degree drop according to my car's thermometer.  The weather may be as crazy as our times. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

New Year's Water Bills to Rise $6.56 Per Month

City Council chose to raise water rates another $6.56 per month.  The water rate increase is $3.84 and the water reclamation portion will go up $2.72.  I don't know many people who got a 12% raise this past year. 

The City's internal accounting documents differ from the numbers shown in the presentation to Council.  I'd hoped staff would speak to what caused the discrepancy but neither Bill Riley or Morgan Chedwiggen addressed the Bluebook's extra $4 million in Water Reclamation fund balance.

Council would be advised to consider citizen's response to the last water bill increase.  Usage plummeted even during dry years..  

I expect City leaders to drive down water usage further with their five year 55% water rate increase.  Year 2 of the plan starts January 1, 2017.  

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Council to Consider Water Bill Rebate

City Staff plan to recommend citizens not get a water rebate this Christmas.  A memo prepared for City Council concludes:

"Since unaudited Water Operations fund balance is less than the goal, it would not be fiscally prudent to issue a rebate at this time; therefore, staff does not recommend issuing a rebate."  
The Water Advisory Board agreed with staff during their last meeting.

The City's September 2016 Blue Book accounting document lists eleven water funds, a mix of operating, debt service, capital and trust funds.  Citizen's monthly municipal bills fund these eleven accounts.

Oddly, terms used in the water rebate discussion do not exist in the city's accounting system.  One can conclude that Water Operations coincides with the accounting system's Water Enterprise Fund.  Their $1.5 million fund balance matches to the dollar.

However, Wastewater Operations does not have a clear accounting counterpart, although it appears to be a subset of Water Reclamation, which has a considerably larger fund balance of nearly $7.5 million.  That's over twice the size of Wastewater Operations fund balance of nearly $3.4 million.

The City did not include the Stormwater fund balance of $2.9 million in its rebate considerations.  The monthly bill from the city includes fees for stormwater, sewer and water.  Total fund balance across these eleven funds as of 9-30-16 was $44.9 million. 

Council should be concerned about the lack of alignment between terms used by staff and the city's accounting system.  I question the $4.1 million difference in fund balance for Wastewater/Reclamation, as that clearly effects any possible citizen rebate.  Hopefully, staff will be prepared to educate Council members and the public.

As then City Councilman Morrison noted years ago, there's millions running through these water funds and there's never any money leftover to give back to citizens.  That's still the case.

Update 12-6-16:  City Council did not approve a rebate and worse they added $3.85 per month to the water bill, costing citizens roughly another $50 per year.  That Standard Times article did not address the discrepancy between Wastewater Operations and Reclamation fund balance that exists in the city's Bluebook accounting document for September 2016.

Monday, November 07, 2016

City Wants to Wheeler-Deal Ford Ranch

The Standard Times reported:

The city of San Angelo is seeking to purchase the land overlying its Hickory Aquifer water leases.

City Council met Monday morning and authorized its staff to negotiate the purchase, with authority to pay up to $1,350 per acre for the Ford Ranch, the 32,000-acre McCulloch County property where the well field is located. The transaction could involve up to $43 million.

The city says the purchase price can be funded out of the water revenue fund. City water customers saw a rate increase last year intended to finance water infrastructure projects up to $136 million, and the ranch purchase would fall within that scope.

The ranch could be resold at some point in the future, with the city in control of the water lease terms.  "We could fully determine how much water any future owner could use. In doing so, San Angelo could protect what is rightfully ours … with the added benefit of reselling the ranch once we had and recouping much of the purchase price."
Right now the city is both the lessee and lessor.  Stay tuned for how this works out.  In the meantime your water bill is paying for the city's future development of this property

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sales Tax Decline Consistent for FY 2016

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation board met last week and heard staff's hope that the sales tax situation might be improving.

"We did end the year just slightly under budget for sales tax revenue.  However our most recent month over month comparing with last year we were up just slightly at 0.39%.  So we're hopeful going forward that will continue to see that upward trend."
"Slightly under budget for sales tax revenue" was a shortfall of $510,399.  That's nearly one month of sales tax revenue.  September 2016's sales tax revenue came in 12.6% or $88,647 below 2015's.  I'm not sure how that's upward for the month.  Also, one month of data does not make a trend.

The shortfall when comparing the last two years of actual data came in at nearly $1.2 million or 12.5%.  Hope is a good thing, so are knowledge and faith.  I pray our economy stabilizes and expands in a way that helps people living here.