Auditor: City should consider sewer fee hike

Audit finds fund has $310,000 net loss this year by Avery Cropp  STILLWATER GAZETTE Although the Stillwater City Council received a clean audit report Tuesday night, city officials were encouraged to look at their sanitary sewer fund and consider raising fees.  The city’s sanitary sewer fund raised concerns for the audit firm with expenses exceeding revenues. Fees for this fund have not increased since 2006 and has led to a net loss of $310,000 this year, according to Tom Koop of CliftonLarsenAllen.    “This is where you’re losing more than paper losses, This is where we really see a cause for concern and we’d advise that you’d seriously look harder at this fund to right the ship,” he said.  Koop added that while city officials could argue that three months of operating cash exists in the sanitary sewer fund, it’s harder to repair the typical items that aren’t included in this on the operating capital. Koop added that Metropolitan Council sanitary sewer rates have increased from 1 to 6 percent every year since 2006 and the cash flow to the city in this fund has dropped by 53 percent. Koop recommends the city seriously consider raising rates.  Overall, the audit found the city’s general fund in good health with revenues exceeding expenditures by a little under $94,000.  “In the general fund, you had to make some pretty tough decisions like holding off on capital and that has resulted in maintaining financial stability through the general fund,” Koop said.  Koop also said the St. Croix Valley Rec Center was solidly in the black due to a $610,000 bond used for capital funding.  Other enterprise funds such as storm sewer, signs and lighting, parking, and water funds all had positive cash flows, Koop said.  Overall the city is in good standing finance wise and there were no legal complaints.   Also at the meeting council:  l Learned that Night To Unite will be Aug. 6 in Washington Square Park   l Heard that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee project is going better than expected and would likely be moving to the next work section near Commercial Street within the next week.  l Tabled a decision on the raising the parking rate structure until next fall so they could understand the impact of construction before making any decisions.  l Approved the beginning bid process for parking lot reconstruction.  l Were asked to look at the Request For Proposal description regarding a summer festival in downtown Stillwater and get changes back to staff for the next meeting.  Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com Crews working on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee project in Lowell Park remove a large concrete disk from a tractor-trailer rig ealrier this week. The Stillwater City Council learned Tuesday that work on the project is moving better than expected. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Crews working on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee project in Lowell Park remove a large concrete disk from a tractor-trailer rig ealrier this week. The Stillwater City Council learned Tuesday that work on the project is moving better than expected. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Audit finds fund has $310,000 net loss this year

Although the Stillwater City Council received a clean audit report Tuesday night, city officials were encouraged to look at their sanitary sewer fund and consider raising fees.
The city’s sanitary sewer fund raised concerns for the audit firm with expenses exceeding revenues. Fees for this fund have not increased since 2006 and has led to a net loss of $310,000 this year, according to Tom Koop of CliftonLarsenAllen.
“This is where you’re losing more than paper losses, This is where we really see a cause for concern and we’d advise that you’d seriously look harder at this fund to right the ship,” he said.
Koop added that while city officials could argue that three months of operating cash exists in the sanitary sewer fund, it’s harder to repair the typical items that aren’t included in this on the operating capital.
Koop added that Metropolitan Council sanitary sewer rates have increased from 1 to 6 percent every year since 2006 and the cash flow to the city in this fund has dropped by 53 percent. Koop recommends the city seriously consider raising rates.
Overall, the audit found the city’s general fund in good health with revenues exceeding expenditures by a little under $94,000.
“In the general fund, you had to make some pretty tough decisions like holding off on capital and that has resulted in maintaining financial stability through the general fund,” Koop said.
Koop also said the St. Croix Valley Rec Center was solidly in the black due to a $610,000 bond used for capital funding.
Other enterprise funds such as storm sewer, signs and lighting, parking, and water funds all had positive cash flows, Koop said.
Overall the city is in good standing finance wise and there were no legal complaints.
Also at the meeting council:

  •   Learned that Night To Unite will be Aug. 6 in Washington Square Park
  • Heard that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee project is going better than expected and would likely be moving to the next work section near Commercial Street within the next week.
  •  Tabled a decision on the raising the parking rate structure until next fall so they could understand the impact of construction before making any decisions.
  • Approved the beginning bid process for parking lot reconstruction.
  • Were asked to look at the Request For Proposal description regarding a summer festival in downtown Stillwater and get changes back to staff for the next meeting.
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