Utility revenue drop troubling in City of Alexandria audit report

By JIM BUTLER

Its audit report, released this week, for the fiscal year that ended April 30 is a straightforward reminder of the role utility collections play in the City of Alexandria’s wellbeing.

Transfers from the Utility Fund to the General Fund historically help pay the costs of city services.

A budgeted transfer of $5.3 million didn’t happen in the most recent fiscal year, leading to a net decrease of $3.6 million in the General Fund balance.

The absence of transfer funds, the report notes, was due to lack of timely cutoffs for non-payment.

Uncollectable billings rose from $9 million to $16.2 million. The cash flow impact is labeled “devastating.”

Issues such as a cyberattack, inconsistent meter reading and billing and discretionary cutoff enforcement in the Hall administration need no rehashing.

The Roy administration, which took office in December, has taken steps to recoup some losses and plug the leak, though expecting customers to pay in full for services, as the city has to do with its obligations, is not playing well with some.

The city’s total revenue for the audit year was $205.4 million, compared to $192.3 million a year earlier.

Much of the increase over the previous year was pass-along charges for increased fuel costs.

Electricity costs rose to $79.4 million from the prior year $60.7 million; gas expense was $15.9 million, compared to $14.5 million prior year.

The city’s overall net position increased from $319.6 million to $328.9 million.