On Friday, Mayor Steve Bach sent Scott Hente two separate letters offering recommendations to make the Colorado Springs Utilities budget process better.
The two letters basically said the same thing, but one was addressed to Hente as the City Council president and the other as the chairman of the Utilities Board.
Hente responded to the mayor’s letters Monday.
Hente sent only one letter.
Here is the full text of that letter:
October 16, 2012
Honorable Mayor Steve Bach
City Administration Building
Suite 601, MC 610
Thank you for your recent letters regarding the Colorado Springs Utilities budget and process. I, along with my colleagues, appreciate your input.
Colorado Springs Utilities has always been committed to discussing its budget in an open forum and provides much of the information you suggested, including placing all materials and videos of past Utilities Board meetings online for public viewing. In addition, every December the Board adopts, by vote, (and publishes) a planning calendar for the upcoming year which outlines expected reports and decisions required at each meeting. This ensures that the Board receives regular presentations on the budget and financial conditions, and provides a public record to our ratepayers so that they know, with sufficient notification, when they can comment on the budget. Last year was no different.
For example, in July of each year, staff presents the Financial Planning and Budgeting overview for the upcoming five years. The report presented at the July 18, 2012 Utilities Board meeting included the 2013 – 2017 projections by year on debt, days cash on hand, customer energy and water sales/consumption, planned capital projects, and programs and other projections. This report, as is the case for all reports and presentations dealing with the budget, was made in an open forum and was subject to public comment.
It is also important to note that Colorado Springs Utilities is not a municipal government and operates under a different planning and budgetary process. Unlike a municipal government budget, Colorado Springs Utilities’ budget is developed and presented in a specific accounting format that identifies the costs for providing services. This detailed format is used to develop an Annual Operating Plan (AOP) that is an integral part of the planning and budgeting process. The AOP provides financial data based on analysis of the current budget and a forecasted five-year financial plan. Once the AOP and budget is adopted, the Board holds the organization accountable through the CEO Performance Plan and Scorecard.
One other aspect that is significantly different is that the Utility budget is specifically tied to the utility rates that are regulated by the Colorado Springs City Council. The City Council, acting within its authority under both the State Constitution and the City Charter, has certain obligations with respect to public notification and the process in setting the rates. The calendar approved by the Utility Board for each year ensures that the law is being followed with regards to the dates associated with the rate settings.
The draft of the Colorado Springs Utilities 2013 Annual Operating Plan and Budget was provided to Utilities Board members for preliminary review last week and posted on the Colorado Springs Utilities web site for public viewing.
Colorado Springs Utilities leadership will present the proposed 2013 AOP to the Utilities Board on Wednesday, October 17. No action will be taken at this meeting as City Council will be requested to consider and approve the annual budget, the appropriation of monies, and the identification of the annual sources of funds during the November Formal Council meetings. If approved, the Annual Operating Plan will become effective on January 1, 2013. The public is encouraged to attend and comment throughout this process.
The Utilities Board members have had several opportunities to participate in the 2013 budget process, including a public workshop on September 14. While not every Board member was able to attend the workshop, Jerry Forte and members of his executive team met with them individually to discuss the 2013 budget and approval process.
Thank you again for your comments and input. I hope you will consider attending the upcoming Utilities Board meeting and the subsequent Formal City Council meetings to see firsthand how the process works. I’m confident you will walk away impressed with the operations and management of Colorado Springs Utilities.
Scott Hente, President
Colorado Springs City Council