I’ve never heard of a financial measure for trade receivables called “collection rate” but the term was evidently dropped a good bit at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting like it meant something from a financial standpoint. (The typical measures of receivable efficiency are properly called receivable turnover and my personal favorite, the DSO. I have guesstimated the City’s DSO at somewhere close to 30 days for purposes of this post.)
I mention all this because there has been some chatter about last Tuesday night’s Bay St Louis City Council meeting and delinquent utility bills was a topic of conversation. Let’s start with Dwayne Bremer’s account of it to set the mood:
Ron Thorpe, a member of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, on Tuesday appeared before the city council and offered an aggressive presentation with props such as a large garbage bag filled with paper and 135 water bottles arranged on a table.
The garbage bag, he said, represented $400,000 in uncollected utility bills. The 135 water bottles represented how many utility customers are more than 60 days past due, he said.
Councilmen and the audience sat in stunned silence during the presentation. At one point, Thorpe held the garbage bag above his head, shook it, and then threw it toward the council podium.
Here is a sampling of some of the seriously overdue water bills per the following Aging report obtained from the City of Waveland by Lana Noonan of the Alliance for Good Government:
Habitat for Humanity—-$473.59
Oak Park Apartments- over $16,000
Gulf Grove Apartments–$13,987.50
“I’m still not certain that we are okay on collecting people’s waste water and garbage fees and using them for something else,” Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said. “We go out and borrow money after we collect their money.”
Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government should take a well deserved victory lap:
A majority of the bills are more than four months behind.
“One prompt for me to look into this,” Noonan said, “was that the council just voted for a utility increase.
“If they’re not paying now, how are they going to pay when the rates increase?”
Noonan said the delinquent amounts add up to $265,955 and the utility list was posted online on Sept. 26.
Slabbed was not credited in the story and I’m fine with that. To the extent a couple of the City council members got phone calls after Slabbed published the City’s Utility Aging well tells the tale here. The days of the Sea Coast Echo being the gatekeeper of public information for all things Hancock County are over and that happened years ago with the ascent of this critter called the internet. People are hungry for good information. To the extent what I do here at Slabbed New Media forces the other “dangerous people of the internet” to bring their A games to local journalism is a good thing for the public IMHO. It shows in Cassandra Favre’s story.
A few weeks ago someone knowledgeable of the operations of the City of Bay St Louis indicated to Slabbed the city was not being diligent in collecting past due water bills and this is important because of cash flow problems the City is experiencing overall. Cash flow problems in municipalities is not unusual per se as the majority of the property taxes come in from December through February and taper off greatly from there. The general subject gets arcane and technical very quickly but the City needs cash to pay payroll period and it’d be nice to have enough left over to pay the bills too.
Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government did the PRR work along with some analysis and this post would not be possible without her contribution and that of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government to the effort. First up is the list of major delinquent accounts and note that WLOX’s Al Showers in on that list owing over $500. Al, my best advice is to join The Advocate’s Richard Thompson and follow Slabbed immediately on Twitter because if I had to guess, those $100 water bills you are getting come partly from a leaky toilet and today I just happened to post on twitter a handy Youtube video on how to make the repair. Just guessing but I think Thompson has been close to militant on this issue because he covers folks like Jefferson Parish Councilman at Large Chris Roberts, a man that can make that repair in under 5 minutes at 5AM blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back. True dat Richard!