Less water use, less revenue

By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer

Published Thursday, April 23, 2009

TAMPA — The city is experiencing some negative consequences from water restrictions and conservation measures: Water revenue is way down.

Meanwhile, expenses are way up — partly because the city has to supplement its supply by buying from Tampa Bay Water.

The result: The city will have to dip into reserves to balance the Water Department budget this year, city finance director Bonnie Wise told the City Council on Thursday.

Water department revenue is down $4.6 million, while expenses are up $8.4 million. That means about $13 million will be shifted from the Water Department's $47.7 million reserves, Wise said.

"It's a Catch-22," said City Council member John Dingfelder. "We're doing a better job on conservation. Now we're going broke on the water stuff."

Council member Mary Mulhern said it's worth the decline in revenue. "It's better for us not to use up our water than it is for us to make money off it," she said.

Council member Tom Scott agreed.

"It's worth the cost. But we're going to have to figure out a way to make an adjustment. We can't continue to lose $13 million a year," he said.

Another factor in falling revenue is the economy. The city has fewer water customers because so many homes are empty and business are failing, Wise said.

The city sent out 1.51 million water bills in 2008, and expects to send out 1.48 million in 2009, a drop of about 2 percent.

The Solid Waste Department also will have to use $1.5 million from its $18.1 million reserve to balance its budget because of increased operating expenses, Wise said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.


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