The Daily Hustle: 8/10/10

Budget for parking costs!

The Daily Hustle: 8/10/10
Photo courtesy City of Austin

Council hasn't publicly discussed the city budget in a hot minute, but that doesn't mean they have no questions. Instead, they issue questions to their different departments, and the results are posted online for all to see. It's an excellent window into the thoughts and concerns they have about the city's finances.

So far, there seems to be a bunch of questions about Austin Water, their rate increases and business model. Chris Riley asked, “What drives the proposed Austin Water Utility rate increase in FY11??” There's two pages worth of answers, but the money graf is this:

Austin Water Utility’s proposed FY 2011 revenue is projected at $411.0 million before any rate increase revenue is included. Before rate increases, the total revenue projected for FY 2011 is $11.1 million less than the FY 2010 budget. The reduction in revenue is due to reductions in average water consumption per account due to assumed water conservation and economic impacts to our revenue. Wetter than normal weather during 2010 has significantly reduced water demand and revenue, and reduced wastewater averages which impact revenue for the first 6 months of FY 2011.
Bill Spelman wades into similar territory, asking questions mirroring the Save Our Springs Alliance's arguments against the plant, spelled out in their report “The Perfect Storm,” that conservation measures, coupled with the expense of building Water Treatment Plant No. 4, means people will be using less water while the utility charges more for it, driving down demand even further. Spelman asks, “How much did AWU estimate demand would decrease as a result of the proposed rate hike?” and “How will AWU keep expenditures in line with revenues if water demand drops more than expected as a result of rates going up?”

“The Austin Water Utility (AWU) did not adjust its revenue projections to account for potential changes in demand specifically associated with the proposed increases in water and wastewater rates,” reads the response to Spelman's first query, but notes “The Average Gallon Per Account projection for residential customers was reduced by approximately 4.4% to anticipate the impact of increased conservation efforts, weather, current economic conditions and price elasticity.” Answering his second question, they say they are “not anticipating a reduction in water demand specifically associated with the proposed increase in water and wastewater rates,” but have a five point plan for keeping costs in check. “As a last course of action, the Utility would seek additional funds through rate increases to maintain acceptable service levels without compromising water quality and reliability, infrastructure, and preserve lands. This, of course, requires the support of the City Council.”

Council's next budget session is August 18, which is focused on the general fund. However, it sounds like the real action might come at their August 25 session which is focused on the enterprise departments.

… Speaking of moolah, the city's unveiled their second tier of new parking meters, now for individual spaces as opposed to the kiosks designed to serve a whole block. Take it away, press release!

This week, the City of Austin Transportation Department has begun the installation of 500 solar powered single spaced meters as the final step in the technology upgrade to the City’s parking system. The City is currently retrofitting outdated meters with the new solar powered meters that accept both credit cards and coins.

On the first day of instillation Monday, August 9, staff replaced 120 parking meter heads in the University of Texas area, and will continue working to complete all City meters by the beginning of next week.

The City completed the bulk of the project last August, replacing 3,800 single space meters with 700 modern pay stations. Because the new pay stations can serve much larger sections of parking, the City is installing updated and more cost-effective single space meters where only a few spaces existed on smaller streets.

Some interesting figures from the city too, regarding the kiosks' first year: 60% of total sales have come from credit cards.

What the hell else is happening?

On the city calendar: Council's Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise & Small Business Committee meets in the Board and Commission room at City Hall, 301 W. Second, 3pm.

The Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Task Force meets at One Texas Center, 3rd Floor Conference Room, 505 Barton Springs, 5:30pm.

The Planning Commission happens in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 6pm.

The Urban Transportation Commission is meeting in the Boards & Commissions room at City Hall, 6pm.

The Community Development Commission meets at the Street-Jones Building, Room 400A, 1000 E. 11th, 6:30pm

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

The Daily Hustle, City Budget, Bill Spelman, Chris Riley, Austin Water, Budget page, rate increase

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