In previous posts, we have discussed where to find data to help water and wastewater systems make smart financial and managerial decisions. Another vital data source for any water and wastewater system is its own financial statements, from which systems can calculate key financial indicators.
Key financial indicators are a way for a system to get a snapshot of its financial health and to determine whether it needs to make adjustments to its rates, and they should be calculated annually when financial statements are released. One important financial indicator is operating ratio, which measures the ratio of annual operating revenues to annual operating expenses. To be a true enterprise fund that is self-supporting, a system should strive to have at least as much operating revenue as it has operating expenses, if not more. Otherwise, the system would be operating at a loss.
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.
How financially healthy are the municipal residential electric utilities in North Carolina? That is a broad question, and one of keen interest to many customers of those utilities. This is especially true at a time when Duke Energy Progress and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) are discussing the possibility of Duke Energy Progress purchasing NCEMPA’s electric generating assets, and where rate payers may be wondering what such a sale could mean for their future electric rates, as discussed in this previous blog post on affordability of residential electricity in N.C. Continue reading
Shadi Eskaf is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Ratio of Operating Revenues to Operating Expenses for 62 Utilities Nationwide
A couple of months ago, we blogged that water utilities’ operating revenues are generally continuing to grow every year, but that there was a slowdown of revenue increases in recent years, particularly after 2008. At the same time, expenses are also rising. Does this mean that expenses have caught up to revenues and that the majority of utilities are now experiencing revenue shortfalls?