Water revenue up, costs down



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — With revenues up and expenses down, the town’s water department did better than expected financially in 2014.

And the 2015 budget anticipates an increase of less than 1 percent on both sides of the ledger.

The 2014 water budget projected revenues totaling $634,675. As of Dec. 1, with one month left in the budget year, that figure had been exceeded by nearly $14,000.

Revenues from residential rate-payers already was up $25,000 over budget to more than $324,000. That could be due to a number of factors, according to finance director Tabbetha Newenham.

“Residential revenue fluctuates annually because you have different people coming in for weekly rentals,” she said.

For example, she said if renters are accustomed to drought conditions where they are coming from, they probably will be more conservative in using water here. If they come from a wet climate, they will use more.

At the same time, if Mount Desert Island has a dry summer, the amount of outdoor watering goes up.

Newenham said the increase in residential water revenues also is due in part to the reclassification of some water customers from commercial to residential. Residential and commercial rates are the same, but commercial customers pay tax on the water they use. So, if someone is using only 10 percent of their residence as a home office, they shouldn’t be paying as much as a full commercial customer.

“We’re trying to keep a closer eye on that and get (what customers pay) more in line with what the actual usage is,” Newenham said.

The result is that while residential water revenues were up significantly during the first 11 months of 2014, commercial customer revenues were down about $11,000 to just over $71,000.

On the expense side, by Dec. 1, the water department had paid $42,376 in debt service, which was more than $12,000 above what the budget anticipated. But because of that, the department will be making no debt service payments in 2015.

“The water department was able to pay off all of its debt to the town,” Newenham said. “It is now solvent; it’s paying for itself.”

Expenses were down in a number of areas in 2014. For example, the water department saved on caustic soda, which is used in the treatment process. Newenham explained that adjustments to equipment at the treatment plant reduced the amount of bacteria in the water, and thus, the amount of the chemical needed to treat it.

Overall, expenses as of Dec. 1 totaled $32,000 less than the amount projected for the entire year.

The water department budget for calendar year 2015, which the board of selectmen approved last week, totals $640,575. That is an increase of .93 percent over the 2014 budget, but less than the actual cost of operating the water system for the year just ending.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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