03/28/08 — City water revenues increasing

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City water revenues increasing

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 28, 2008 1:51 PM

The city of Goldsboro has been watching thousands of dollars go downstream for months now.

Ever since the third and most restrictive phase of mandatory conservation measures took effect on Nov. 5, the quantity of water going out to residents has decreased, and, in turn, the money coming in from those residents for their water bills has also gone down, meaning residents could see a water rate increase in the future.

But city officials are hoping it doesn't come to that. They are hoping that the newest set of restrictions will bring in some much needed money.

Mandatory restrictions first started on Sept. 17, but with only 13 days left in the month for residents to conserve, revenues didn't quite show the extent of the money loss to come. Up about $13,000 from 2006, the 2007 numbers for September totaled $385,669, according to the city Finance Department.

Even in October, revenues were above that of months to come as well as about $24,000 above the same month in 2006.

But then, as city officials further restricted water use by implementing a higher mandatory water phase at the beginning of November, residents started to seriously consider the dangerously bad drought conditions, and their water use fell.

The city started to see a decline in revenues from there, with November being the lowest month for water income from August to February -- a drop of $63,821 from October.

Since then, numbers have increased but not by much.

December came in at $306,411, roughly $14,000 more than the previous month.

All in all, from November to January, the city saw $24,000 less in revenue from water services.

But City Manager Joe Huffman said officials knew the situation would be a complex one.

"If you don't cut back on usage, we may have resource concerns," he said. "If we cut back (usage), we will experience a shortfall in revenue that will be needed to meet operational costs and the financing of long-term projects related to (water) supply and treatment (facilities). On the other hand, reducing use gives the city increased capacity to attract new development and industry."

A reduction in water usage, he added, will have both positive and negative short-term impacts. But, in the long run, everything will work out.

"In the long run, I think the positive impacts of water conservation will outweigh other considerations because the long-term treatment capability of our plant will be extended for a period of time and (that will increase) our attractiveness for developers or industrial clients (because we) can meet their needs," he said.

Huffman said he also believes the usage reduction will give the city the necessary time to prepare and execute a plan to meet long-term raw water availability demands -- a plan that he feels will give the city a better position in the future.

But what will the city do to make up for the current monetary shortfall?

Well, raising water rates aren't out of the question, Huffman said.

Goldsboro's water rates are lower than other cities in the area, he added, and "adjustments to meet long term needs may merely have the impact of making our rates similar to those others charge."

Last month, though, gave city officials hope and a decreased chance that residents will see a rate increase.

The month of February was the first month since October to see an increase over last year's revenues with an increase of $38,000 from the same month in 2007.

So, city officials are hopeful that the two-month trend will continue, and the recent decrease from Mandatory Conservation Phase III to Mandatory Conservation Phase I -- and the pent up water-use energy that residents have been anxiously waiting to release for months now -- will likely help.