WG&L finances trending upward

ALBANY -- Rate increases implemented last year may have been enough to lift the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission into the black for the first time in four years, officials say.

Fiscal Director John Vansant told the WG&L Board Tuesday that despite a 2 percent dip in budgeted revenue collections, the utility enjoyed a $1.8 million net income halfway through their fiscal year.

Vansant said that is largely thanks to last year's rate spike which saw the board increase the rate on gas for the first time in 10 years by 10 percent and gas by as much as 8 percent. Those increases, which translated to $2 per month on water bills and $5 per month for gas, should be the last large rate increases going forward, officials said.

The board discussed last May linking the rate increases into the Consumer Price Index which determines inflation so that, in the future, rates will adjust in smaller increments.

"I can say that things are looking better," Vansant said. "It's still a volatile market, but we appear to be in good shape looking forward."

If the trend continues, the utility may end the fiscal year in the black -- a feat not accomplished in the last four years.

"We have to get to the point where we can make some kind of profit," Vansant said. "We have to work to replenish our reserve fund and build a bit of buffer for next year."

Tuesday, Vansant said that WG&L's reserve fund was at a "dangerously low" $3 million, which potentially leaves the utility at risk if a major weather event or catastrophe were to occur.

According to Vansant, the Water Department saw a 10 percent decline in consumption from last month, leaving it $231,000 under budget.

The Gas Department saw their net profit drop 11 percent or $133,000, which is expected to rebound thanks to the recent cold weather.

The Light Department is experiencing more consumption than expected which translates into the department being $430,000 over budget.

The Telecom department has generated $163,000 more in revenues than expected, and came in at $97,000 under budget for the year.