The first quarter of fiscal year 2020-2021 is in the books for the City of Greenville.
As external financial consultant Steve Osso concluded his report to the city council during Tuesday’s regular meeting, it yielded a burning concern — water department revenue.
As it has been somewhat of a trending topic over the past year, councilmembers and those on the public works committee have discussed matters such as billing cycles, water bills, meters and others ad nauseam.
According to Osso’s report, water revenue that was billed for the months of October, November and December 2020 is down more than $349,000 compared to the first quarter of fiscal year 2019-2020.
Water revenue collections are down $238,000 to date compared to this time last year.
Osso projects once January’s numbers are in, they will be down also.
In addition, sewer revenue collections for the first three months of this fiscal year are down roughly $33,000 as well as garbage revenue collection at $77,000 compared to the previous fiscal year.
Ward 1 Councilman Al Brock asked Osso, “Should we be concerned about the downturn in major revenues which are the sales tax, water, sewer and garbage?”
Osso told Brock that he and the council should be terribly concerned about the water department and pointed out that financial capability studies are conducted for state revolving funds to get EPA loans.
“We ought to be collecting a little over $7 million a year and we’ve never collected over $5 million any one year,” he said to the council. “I figure we’re down $11.6 to $12 million in cash collections during that period of time (2014-2020) and we should be collecting $1 million every month.”
Even though the city reached the million dollars a month achievement only twice last year, Osso said this current fiscal year got off to a good start. January and February collections will likely fall below the target because they are starting to “tailspin the wrong way.”
Ward 3 Councilman Vernon Greenlee asked Osso what he thought was the main issue as it relates to the water department woes.
Osso explained a substantial amount of water meters are not being recognized by the system water department employees use to locate them.
“If we can find the thousands of meters we don’t have, that’s gonna be part of the answer,” he said, adding that issues such as installation and location still lie with the meters that are recognized.
Several councilmembers voiced their concerns about the billing from the water department and shared the experiences told to them by residents who have been impacted by billing inconsistencies and “astronomical” bills.
The topic of policies as they relate to the water department, collections and adjustments arose.
Mayor Errick Simmons and council members were of the general consensus that moving forward, forming and implementing such policies in line with legislation should be a focus.