Co-author Neil Sullivan is a Rates Specialist at the Environmental Finance Center.
Since 2007, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been conducting water and wastewater rate surveys in Georgia. With support from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and other organizations, the EFC at UNC has collected a decade worth of rates data. Each year this data allows the us to create water and wastewater Rates Dashboards. This free tool helps utility staff analyze and weigh their current rates against different indicators to better inform future rate settings. Additionally, this data reveals important trends in how Georgia utilities manage their finances. Read on to see how the landscape of water and wastewater rates has transformed in the past decade:
One hazard that water utilities with financial difficulties face is an increased risk of falling out of compliance of federal requirements and drinking water regulations. Violating regulations often triggers enforcement actions (and sometimes fines) by the state primacy agency, adding to the time and expense of running the water system. This can be extra troublesome if those utilities are already financially constrained. We analyzed national and regional data and found that unfortunately, there is statistical evidence that correlates small water systems’ financial difficulties and some types of violations.
Growing up in a country where school uniforms were mandatory, I viewed uniforms as, well …, “boring!” At least that was the way I felt in high school. One of the most engaging classes I can recall was when the English teacher suggested school uniforms as the topic for our oral debate class. No one wanted to be on the team that had to argue in favor of uniforms. But, even though uniforms are a little plain, I can now admit to seeing many benefits to the students who wear them. Similarly, I feel that uniform water rate structures in the United States may have suffered some shunning, partly due to their “plain” nature. Continue reading
David R. Tucker is a Project Director at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Key: 1. Water Main; 2. Water Tap; 3. Water Meter; 4. Private Plumbing (water line); 5. Private Plumbing (wastewater line); 6. Wastewater Main.
Source: City of Fort Worth, Texas
My work at the UNC Environmental Finance Center frequently centers around the study, benchmarking, and understanding of rates, especially residential rates: charges per unit across time (such as dollars per kilowatt hour for kWh of electricity used in a month; or dollars per gallon, for thousands of gallons of drinking water used in a quarter; and so on). You can see the results of our work on rates by yours truly and my colleagues in sophisticated tools that we have developed, such as our drinking water and wastewater rates dashboards, our stormwater rates dashboards, and our electric rates dashboards, among many other tools and reports that the EFC has created. Continue reading
Stacey Isaac Berahzer is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, and works from a satellite office in Georgia.
In each of the 12 months of the year, at least one local government in Georgia is ending its fiscal year. The chart below reflects the distribution of fiscal year ends (FYEs) for the 530 municipalities in the state. Some states stamp out this variety by handing down a fiscal calendar to local governments. But, the flexibility in Georgia perhaps speaks to the home rule nature of the state. The relevant Georgia statute says that when a local government is created, “The governing authority shall establish by ordinance, local law, or appropriate resolution a fiscal year for the operations of the local government.”
Since the local governments have control over the FYE, it can be assumed that each one has selected a date that has some advantage to the staff or the community involved. The eight (8) governments that end their fiscal year in August may have a busy summer, but they perhaps they want to be “ahead” of the start of the federal fiscal year in October. Apart from local preference, this staggered approach among the local governments may also have an advantage to some external entities such as third-party auditors. It seems that audit firms that serve local governments may have a more muted “busy season” since all of their clients aren’t reporting on the same schedule. But, might there be other entities for which this approach is less convenient?