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.