Friday, November 24, 2017

City Council Rejects Water Rebate: Rate Increase Vote Next?

San Angelo's City Council continued the decade long string of not offering water rebates to citizens, despite raising water rates at least five times since 2007.

The City enacted water rate increases in 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2017.  Another water increase is coming January 1, 2018.
2007 - Average increase of $13.22 per month
2011 - Average increase of $14.75 per month
2011-2016 - Additional fees of $5.42 per month added.
2016 - Average increase of $5.88 per month
2017 - Average icrease of $6.56 per month.
2018 -Average increase of $7.32 per month
Two more rate increases are planned for 2019 and 2020.  Combined they total $7.96 per month. 

By 2020 San Angelo's City Council will have increased citizen water bills by $61.11 to $79.08 per month.   That's a 340% rate hike over 14 years, an annual 24% increase.

Why no rebate?  One factor is the city shifts water money around before its time to consider a rebate.  Consider this historical fact from Fitch Ratings, the city's bond rating agency:

In 2011 the City conducted a "one-time transfer of $3.5 million into general fund reserves from the water utility." 
Consider what Finance Director Tina Dierschke told Council on 11-21-17:

"The estimated fund balance is our fund balance from September 30th in the Blue Book and we've also taken out the carryovers Council approved in the last meeting as well as any typical year end audit adjustments so that we have a better picture of where the water fund balance really stands."
The Blue Book showed nearly $5.8 in Water Enterprise fund balance as of 9-30-17.  Not once Councilperson asked how that number declined to roughly $3.6 million.  Those with a good memory would recall a $1.2 million carry forward for utility work for street projects.

That leaves $1 million explained away as a typical audit adjustment.  In addition, there was no discussion on the $4 million administrative line item or the $3.5 million in transfers from the water fund for the fiscal year ended 9-30-17. 

I wrote my City Council representative asking about the evaporation of $2.2 million in water funds.  I've heard nothing back.  That was also council's response when asked "any questions?" on this agenda item.  Silence.  Nothing. 

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