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.

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