It’s not great news, but it’s better than they expected.
Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department has already exceeded expected revenues from water meter sales this fiscal year, which began on July 1.
So far, the department has sold 211 water meters, adding that many more customers to the department, said Tina Wetherford, finance and administration division manager for the department.
When it planned its spending for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, the department only planned on the revenue from 168 meters, Wetherford said.
But it’s no time to put conservative spending in the past, Wetherford said. Even though meter sales have exceeded expectations, expectations for this year were low — really low.
After a near halt in new development pushed water meter sales in 2009 to pre-1990 levels, the department did not count on much more this fiscal year.
"We were very conservative because of the drastic fallout last year," Wetherford said.
Water meter sales are typically tied to new development. In 2007, when residential development was booming in the county, the utility sold nearly 2,500 new water meters, according to annual reports compiled by the department.
"Usually that goes hand-in-hand with the building side for building permits," Wetherford said. "It just kind of monitors what kind of growth is going on in the county."
A typical year usually brings in revenue from the sale of about 850 water meters, Wetherford said.
But this year’s meter sales don’t have much to do with new development. The small boon to sales is mainly due to a number of water main extensions to residents in the north and south ends of the county that have, until now, pulled water from wells. Those extensions include new water customers in the Belmont area and in the Mountain View Estates residential development, Wetherford said.
And while this year’s sales have exceeded expectations, other parts of the department’s revenue stream have yet to meet expectations, Wetherford said.
In December, neither revenues from water nor sewer sales met monthly revenue projections. Wetherford said the lower water use in December could be tied to the number of vacant and foreclosed homes in the county.
And for the next few months, utility officials like Wetherford will be closely monitoring each revenue stream to see which holes need to be filled and how much customers will have to pay for water and sewer next year.
"All of this does go into what kind of rate increase we’ll need to have next January," Wetherford said.