Oxnard 4-26-16 City Council meeting: utilities update, financial review

Wastewater, water situtation even worse than previously portrayed.

By George Miller

There wasn’t much on the Tuesday 4-26-16 Oxnard City Council agenda. Mainly some boring stuff about utilities, which make up only 3/4 of the City budget and are essential for survival. Just the yucky, smelly wastewater plant, trash disposal and water. Boring stuff-all. But vital. The room was almost empty and got emptier as the night wore on– and on. Just a few of the regulars and some staff people were all that remained at 10:00 PM.– until well after 11 PM.

OxnardCouncilEmpty

City Council Meeting April 26, 2016 01h 04m Agenda Video

The big surprise of the night was the utilities mid-year review. The surprise was that the situation is even worse than last portrayed. We were told that revenues will only be $23 million vs expenses of 29 million for the year  ending 6-30-16, even with 4 months of much higher rates that went into effect in March. This they attributed mostly to lower volumes and billings due to the drought. As far as we knew, drought estimates had already been built in.

What this means is that even the rate increases will be inadequate to meet anticipated funding needs. Keep in mind that not only bdo normal operating expenses have to be met but there is also:

  • Long-deferred maintenance
  • Many vacant positions to be filled
  • $74 million in capital improvements in next 5 years
  • Major new bonds and debt service- principal, interest, fees
  • Replenishment of almost totally depleted reserves
  • A new capital reserve for future projects

But activist Aaron Starr, who is pushing the rate increase rollback ballot initiative, was unconvinced. He and others got up to challenge the assumptions about conservation usge drop, saying taht it wa already addressed in the rate study. He also pointed out that the mid-term capital plan had been reduced from $115 to $74 million. Utilities Director Rydberg countered with claims that usage has dropped more tan anticipated, will likely remain down, even if drought restrictions arte eased and that mid-term expenditures are in fact $115 million, but are extended out further.

Cost savings were not really addressed in an detail, but some are built into the budget.

It came out at the meeting that the lower revenue numbers were known in March, but didn’t find their way into calculations until after the 4-5-16 meeting with Citizens Journal (for our previous analysis article)  at City Hall, when we were presented with figures which were published here.

The chart from the meeting handout that follows best presents the overall situation:

OxnardUtilitiesReview4-26-16

 

Read meeting papers:

L. REPORTS

Video

  Finance Department
1. SUBJECT: Utilities Financial Review (15/45)
RECOMMENDATION: That City Council receive a mid-year budget update report on Utilities.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Maria A. Hurtado Phone: 385-7430
Document: L-1 Utilities

George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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