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Groundwater Foundation: 2017 National Conference and Resources

Posted By Johanna Bell, Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A unique opportunity to learn more about groundwater and ways to protect and conserve this critical local resource is being provided next week in Boise.  On October 24 - 26, 2017 the Groundwater Foundation will hold their 2017 National Confernence at the Grove Hotel in downtown Boise.  Applications for CLE and continuing education credits are planned. 

Background:

Groundwater - it may be hidden from view, but it is a critical resource in meeting  the growing demands for drinking water, agriculture, and industry in communities across the United States and around the globe. Overuse, depletion, and contamination threaten groundwater every day. It’s up to all of us to lead the way in identifying and implementing solutions to  protect and conserve groundwater.

The Groundwater Foundation’s National Conference has a track record of showcasing real-world solutions to groundwater management, and the 2017 Conference will be no different. 

The 2017 conference will take advantage of many of the great things Boise has to offer to provide a fun and meaningful experience for conference attendees.  This includes educational presentations, case-studies, targeted networking sessions, recognition of outstanding efforts, team-building activities, and local site visits and tours.

For those that can't attend but are interensted in learning more about groundwater protection, please take advantage of the Groundwater Foundation's "on demand webinars" and "water1der" smart phone application.

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Solid Waste: Idaho Cities "Talk Trash"

Posted By Johanna Bell, Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Solid waste collection within Idaho is characterized by waste collection within cities for delivery to county-owned and operated landfills.  Waste collection may be conducted by public or private entities, such as under a sole source contract, with a city-owned fleet, or by private haulers.

In the spring of 2017 the Association of Idaho Cities (AIC) surveyed its member cities to obtain information about city solid waste services, utility rates and other issues.  This was followed by an additional, more informal, survey of City Clerks attending the fall 2017 Idaho City Clerks, Treasurers and Finance Officers Association (ICCTFOA) Institute.

Results from these kinds of surveys can be used to compare cities’ current policies and practices to other cities, and highlight common issues present throughout the State.  Survey results are also used by AIC to advocate for cities at the State level. AIC gives cities access to the aggregated results so they can use it as a reference and for comparison to other cities’ rates and data.

The responses to both of these surveys were voluntary and do not represent a statistically significant data set.  For example, it is not possible to draw conclusions about similar cities that did not participate. Information for individual cities should be carefully assessed in light of individual solid waste facility and utility planning needs.

Summary: Spring 2017 Solid Waste Survey

Participation: Response to Spring 2017 Solid Waste Survey

Services

<1,000

1,000-4,999

5,000-14,999

15,000-49,999

>50,000

Total

# Solid Waste

37

27

11

7

7

89

# Cities by Population (Idaho)

118

49

18

8

7

200

% Represented (Idaho)

31%

55%

61%

88%

100%

54%

 

The spring 2017 survey asked cities what a residential solid waste customer would be charged for an example 65-gallon trash bin (i.e., as a way to provide a comparison among cities).   The relative rates across the State, and among various city sizes, was found to be quite similar.

Table 5.1: Average Solid Waste Collection Rates – Responding Cities

Population

Monthly Rate

n

Standard Deviation

<1,000

$ 16.91

20

$ 5.67

1,000-4,999

$ 14.62

15

$ 6.93

5,000-14,999

$ 15.33

6

$ 2.82

15,000-49,999

$ 18.41

5

$ 6.02

>50,000

$ 13.98

5

$ 3.47

Statewide Average

$ 15.85

51

$ 4.98

 

When adjusted for a cost of living increase, the average 2010 rate of cities is generally $2.14 lower than the 2017 average.  However, 10 out of the 33 responding cities showed the 2017 rates were less than the adjusted 2010 rates.  It is possible that these rates do not reflect cost of living increases.

Solid Waste Collection Rate Comparisons for Responding Cities

2010

2010 Low

2010 High

2017

2017 Low

2017 High

Average Increase

n

$ 14.19

$ 5.21

$ 20.04

$ 16.32

$ 8.00

$ 28.49

$ 2.14

33

 

Most cities have increased their solid waste collection rates within the last three years.  The most common year for rate changes for all city sizes was 2016. Only 2 out of the 41 cities that responded have not adjusted their rates within the last 3 years; and almost all cities increased their rates.

Average Rate Update and Percent Change for Responding Cities – Solid Waste Collections

Year

Mode

% Change

n

Comments

2015

2016

7.4%

41

Note: 1 decreased rates

 

The spring 2017 survey asked respondents to elaborate on why their solid waste collection rates increased and were provided the option to select multiple reasons. For solid waste collection the top reasons for rate changes included inflation or CPI, contract negotiations, and labor costs.

Catalysts for Solid Waste Rate Changes – Responding Cities

Inflation or CPI: 81%

Contract Negotiated Increases: 81%

Labor Costs: 71%Capital Improvements: 39%

State of Federal Mandates: 33%

Treatment Costs: 23%

Other: 3%

n: 31

 

Cities were asked about the solid waste collection rate structures.  The majority of the responding cities charge a flat monthly rate with a volume limit.

Solid Waste Collection Rate Structures – Responding Cities

Flat Rate – No Volume Limit

Flat Rate – Volume Limit

Per Service*

n

21%

69%

8%

51

* Includes trash, recycling, hazardous waste, and large object collections.

Supplemental services that divert waste into other programs (i.e., recycling, hazardous waste collections, and compost) are provided to residents within 47% of the responding cities with populations greater than 5,000, and 9% of those with populations less than 5,000.  Large object collection services are provided by roughly two-thirds of those cities that responded to the survey.

Supplemental Solid Waste Services – Responding Cities

Population

Additional Trash/Large Object

Waste Diversion*

n

<5,000

60%

9%

35

>5,000

79%

47%

19

Total

67%

22%

54

* Recycling and hazardous waste collections.

Cities were asked about the most challenging issues they faced as they provided solid waste collection services.  Similar to other utility services, challenges relating to a small customer base impacted many of the responding cities, followed by inadequate or aging infrastructure.

Solid Waste Collection – Most Challenging Issues for Responding Cities

Small Customer Base: 69%

Aging or Inadequate Infrastructure: 47%

Inadequate Funding: 24%

Challenging Regulatory Requirements: 18%

Limited Access to Operations and/or Maintenance Staff: 15%

Limited Access to Landfill Facilities: 12%

Limited Access to Additional Funding for Reserves: 9%

Small Pool of Governing Officials: 3%

Other: 24%

n: 34

 

Summary: Fall 2017 ICCTFOA Solid Waste Survey

Participation: Friday Morning Round Table

Services

<1,100

1,100-4,999

>5,000

Total

# Participating Cities

16

21

23

60

# Cities by Population (Idaho)

118

49

33

200

% Represented (Idaho)

14%

43%

70%

30%

 

The fall 2017 survey inquired about how the solid waste collection services were provided, and what are the pressing solid waste issues facing the participating cities.  For the limited sub-set of Idaho cities (60 out of 200), it appears as though slightly more than half of Idaho cities develop sole source contracts for city-wide collection services.  Also, the apparent trend is that slightly more than half of the larger cities provide their own collection services.

Solid Waste Collection – Service Framework (% of Participating Cities)

< 1,100

1,100 - 5,000

> 5,000

Total

City-Provided Collection

13%

24%

52%

32%

Sole Source Contract, City-Wide

75%

62%

30%

53%

Multiple Private Collectors

13%

14%

17%

15%

 

Diversion services can prolong the life of landfills, while establishing means to reclaim waste for additional re-purposing and raw material conservation.  These efforts, coupled with an active asset management program, can help avoid dramatic rate increases (a.k.a., rate shock).  Results of the fall survey show that slightly more than half of participating cities support some kind of waste diversion programs, but that active collaboration between Idaho cities and counties is limited.

Solid Waste Collection – Diversion Services (% of Participating Cities)

< 1,100

1,100 - 5,000

> 5,000

Total

Recycling or Green Waste Diversion?

25%

76%

52%

53%

Actively Working with Counties for Diversion?

13%

33%

22%

23%

% Idaho City Represented

14%

43%

70%

30%

 

Pressing solid waste issues facing the fall 2017 ICCTFOA round table participants were discussed and are listed here.  Please note that this list is not prioritized or comprehensive.  Further, the listed issues may or may not have statewide implications.

Solid Waste Issues Facing ICCTFOA Participants

Issue

Comments

Sole Source Contracting

Best management practices for contract development and elements are needed.

Glass Recycling is Costly & Difficult

Ground glass is used for road bed material in Idaho only; no other industrial uses exist.

High Cost of New Landfills

This has prompted regional landfill planning for Lewis, Idaho, Adams Counties.

Local Landfill Availability

Example: Freemont County relies on a transfer station to the Jefferson County landfill.

Contamination in Collected Recycling

Excessive contamination prevents diversion and causes additional costs to the program.

 

For questions or further discussion, please contact AIC Environmental Policy Analyst, Johanna Bell at jbell@idahocities.org

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Dr. Stephanie Witt Receives Award for Service to Idaho City Clerks, Treasurers and Finance Officers Association

Posted By Justin Ruen, Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Idaho City Clerks, Treasurers and Finance Officers Association (ICCTFOA) honored Dr. Stephanie Witt of Boise State University (BSU) with the 2017 Dr. James B. Weatherby Award at the association’s annual Institute in Boise on September 21.

The Dr. James B. Weatherby Award is given annually by the ICCTFOA to individuals who have served the city clerks, treasurers and finance officers in their pursuit of excellence, effectiveness and efficiency in municipal government.  The award is named after Dr. James B. Weatherby, former Director of the Public Policy Center at Boise State University and a past executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities.

Dr. Witt currently serves as a professor in the School of Public Service and as director of the Masters of Public Administration program at BSU. 

Stephanie received her B.A., Masters and Doctoral degrees from Washington State University.  She began her career at BSU in 1989 as a political science professor, and chaired the Political Science Department for four years.  Stephanie served as director of the Public Policy Center at BSU for five years.   She has co-authored several books on the urban west, human resource management and intergovernmental relations.

Stephanie managed the Mountain West Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Institute for several years, providing outstanding training for city clerks and treasurers.  She is also a frequent presenter at the Association of Idaho Cities Annual Conference, ICCTFOA Institute and other local government association meetings in Idaho. 

“We greatly appreciate Dr. Witt’s outstanding service to the city clerks, treasurers and finance officers of Idaho and we are pleased to present her with this very well-deserved recognition,” said ICCTFOA President Blair Kay, City Clerk from Rexburg. 

  

 Attached Thumbnails:

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Protect Reclaimed/Wastewater Treatment Works with an Industrial Users Survey

Posted By Johanna Bell, Sunday, September 24, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Idaho cities with publicly owned waste/reclaimed water treatment works (POTWs) recently received an email with a link to the new Idaho Industrial Users Survey Guidance.  This guidance is one of a number of important resources developed in preparation for the phase-in of Idaho’s authority to issue POTW and Pretreatment program permits next July (2018).  

The primary purpose of an industrial users survey is to protect your city’s waste/reclaimed water treatment system.  By regularly interacting with industrial customers you will know what is being discharged to your waste collection system so you can ensure your city’s treatment process and facilities are not harmed or out of compliance with your discharge permit. The survey can also be used to help evaluate the impact of new customers. For example, if a small metal finisher wants to begin operating in your town it’s important to understand the possible impacts of this new customer to your treatment system and whether a Pretreatment program is required.  

The templates in the new IDEQ Guidance lists the minimum information needed and can be used ‘as is’ or adapted to your city’s existing survey - provided it sufficiently characterizes the nature and volume of the discharge from each user. Providing industrial user information to the IDEQ will allow staff to better assist your city when a Pretreatment program is required.

Please alert your city's POTW Operations staff to the upcoming December deadline.

Whether your POTW already has a program, needs a program now, or needs a program in the future, IDEQ is asking each POTW to complete an industrial user survey to gather signed, certified information from each non-domestic user by December 31st, 2017.  If your city already has a Pretreatment program, simply send the current industrial user survey in its entirety from your most recent Pretreatment Annual Report.  For those cities that are not required to have a Pretreatment program, your POTW permits require that an industrial user survey be completed every 5 years.

For more information, please contact Brynn Lacabanne, IDEQ Pretreatment and Biosolids Coordinator at (208) 373-0289 or brynn.lacabanne@deq.idaho.gov

 

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Local Government Purchasing Training in Boise

Posted By Justin Ruen, Friday, September 22, 2017
The Idaho Division of Purchasing is hosting a training for local government officials on Thursday, October 12 from 9 a.m. to Noon at the Hampton Inn & Suites Boise Spectrum.  Presentations will include: how to utilize statewide contracts, requesting addendums on NASPO ValuePoint contracts, and signing up to shop at Federal surplus.  See the flier for RSVP and other information.

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2017 Municipal Utility Survey - Now Available

Posted By Johanna Bell, Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Association of Idaho Cities is pleased to share the 2017 Municipal Utility Survey. This report contains information on municipal services, billing, system characteristics and rates, asset management and fiscal capability assessments, and stormwater/drainage/floodway management.

The information is aggregated into easy-to-read summary tables that present averages, percentages, counts, and other data to capture survey question response. Results are categorized into five city populations:

• Less than 1,000;
• 1,000-4,999;
• 5,000-14,999;
• 15,000-49,999;
• 50,000 or more.

This is the second AIC utility survey. The first survey was conducted in 2010. With assistance from a Survey Focus Group, this second survey has been expanded to include additional topics relative to utility operations and financial capability analysis. A similar survey is planned for implementation once every five years.

Similar to the 2010 survey, AIC advises cities in the strongest possible terms NOT to set rates based solely on what another city charges. A city’s utility rates must reflect the cost of operating the specific system in light of the unique needs for future expansion and system upgrades. Setting rates based on what other cities charge can be a tragically costly decision.

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Idaho Cities Stormwater & Drainage Funding

Posted By Johanna Bell, Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stormwater and drainage systems consist of stormwater pipes, curbs, gutters, drainage ditches, detention ponds, and stormwater treatment facilities.  Unlike wastewater, most stormwater is not treated to remove pollutants before flowing into local streams, lakes, and wetlands; resulting in pollution of the waterways. To eliminate non-stormwater and pollutant discharge, the Clean Water Act requires both private and public sectors that discharge stormwater from industrial facilities or construction sites into the receiving waters of the United States to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit ("NPDES permit").  Cities designated as owning or operating Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) are also subject to federal permit requirements.   MS4 NPDES permits require the designated cities to undertake comprehensive management of its stormwater system to reduce pollutant loads.

Stormwater infrastructure associated with streets is often constructed to convey stormwater runoff from both public streets and private developed property.  While the practice for private developments to retain, treat, and dispose of stormwater on site is very common, Idaho city inventories show that between 30 and 40 percent of the runoff conveyed by stormwater facilities is associated with both streets and privately developed property.  This situation underscores that managing stormwater effectively involves cooperative efforts from both the private and public sectors.

During the spring of 2017 AIC investigated how Idaho cities are grappling with these and other emerging stormwater, drainage or floodway management and compliance issues. Results show that:

  • Idaho cities with populations over 5,000 residents have consistently adopted stormwater, drainage, or flood management policies or ordinances;
  • only one (1) out of the two hundred (200) Idaho cities has established an enterprise fund utility for drainage management services;
  • funding sources for most Idaho cities for both city-owned and city-regulated drainage management rely heavily on general funds and utility fees paid for waste/reclaimed water;
  • as the city population increases, more Idaho cities also recover some city-regulated costs through developer permit fees; and,
  • the two ‘most challenging’ issues facing Idaho cities for stormwater/drainage management include insufficient funding and aging or inadequate infrastructure.

Responses from the various Idaho cities reflect how there are different funding options for either city-owned or city-regulated drainage management.  In the example for Coeur d’Alene, the stormwater program exists in large part to meet federal, state, and local regulations, most prominent among them being NPDES permitting requirements.  

The following provides a brief list of some funding options currently used by Idaho cities to fund drainage services.  These funding options are not ranked in any specific order, and AIC wishes to emphasize that an Idaho city’s individual situations may preclude the use of one or more of these funding options.

Drainage Services Utility

Drainage service charges can provide a dependable, predictable, and equitable funding source.   Best practices in the development of these utilities include the use of impervious surface area, geographic location, and on-site mitigation to determine chargeable area and rates to be charged; coupled with a process for appeals to establish adjustments or exemptions to the amount of chargeable area.  City-owned facilities receiving stormwater services also pay for these services as though they are provided by a third party.  Drainage services provided either on behalf of, or that benefit the city’s streets, require careful analysis and tracking in order to ensure the value of the various services are appropriately offset.

Waste/Reclaimed Water Services Utility

As in the case of drainage service charges, a waste/reclaimed water service utility can provide dependable, predictable, legally defensible, and equitable funding.  Many of the same considerations recommended for a drainage service utility apply to a waste/reclaimed water service utility.  By viewing these various services holistically, cities can take advantage of natural efficiencies that comes from managing multiple Clean Water Act programs within one utility.  The stormwater program may also indirectly benefit the waste/reclaimed water program by helping to meet total maximum daily load (TMDL) restrictions on receiving water bodies.  The most significant issue with this funding source is the weakness of the nexus between stormwater management and the most commonly used bases for charging wastewater rates, which include water usage and wastewater effluent strength in some cases.

Street Fund

Use of Street Fund money can be justified because many stormwater facilities are located inside the street right-of-way.  As a result, this source is sometimes used by Idaho cities to fund a portion of stormwater management.  However, the street fund is subject to many competing street maintenance demands, and may not be a reliable source for ongoing funding.   

General Fund

Use of General Fund money is usually unrestricted, and thus is frequently used by Idaho cities to fund stormwater management.  However, the general fund is subject to many competing demands, and may not be a reliable source for ongoing funding.   

Permit Application and Review Fees

New development and significant re-development building permit requirements protect cities’ right-of-way and transportation networks.  Erosion control permits also ensure that private development activities do not cause harm to adjacent private or public properties.  A number of Idaho cities currently charge a nominal fee for these applications and compliance reviews in order to offset the cost of equitable local regulation.   

Special Assessments or Special Fees

These are most commonly structured as local improvement districts (LIDs).  These funding mechanisms assess individual properties that benefit from or are served by a specific capital improvement for a share of the cost of that facility. Typically, benefit must be demonstrated by an increase in assessed valuation due to the improvement. Special Fees or direct charges may be used to recover the direct costs for services performed for a customer or class of customers not generally related to the overall service charge.

Impact Fees

Like utility connection charges, impact fees are one-time charges imposed as conditions of development, and are designed to recover an equitable share of the cost of capital investment incurred by the Utility.  The cost basis for an impact fee, authorized in Title 67, Chapter 82 of the Idaho Code, and available for “Storm water collection, retention, detention, treatment and disposal facilities, flood control facilities, and bank and shore protection and enhancement improvements”, may include a share of planned future facilities required to support growth. It is crucial that impact fees be the product of a clear calculation basis derived from official asset accounting and capital improvement plans and that they adhere to statutory limitations and legal precedents.  Revenues from such charges are available for capital purposes only and are not able to fund ongoing program operations.

Debt and Special Grants & Loans

Traditional debt, special grants, or subsidized loans are available only for capital project funding – not ongoing operations.  In addition, loans require a reliable funding source to meet debt repayment needs.

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Seth Grigg Resigns as AIC Executive Director

Posted By Justin Ruen, Friday, September 8, 2017

AIC Executive Director Seth Grigg resigned his position this week in a letter to the AIC Executive Committee.  Grigg was hired as Executive Director of the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) and it is anticipated that he will start work for IAC on November 13, 2017. 

The AIC Executive Committee will meet Friday morning to discuss the process for filling the executive director position. 

“Your confidence, support, and kindness over the last three years have been instrumental in fulfilling my duties as Executive Director,” Grigg said.  “I could not have done the job without you.  It is because of you, the AIC staff, and your collective commitment to AIC that it is so difficult to make this decision.  However, after thoughtful consideration, lengthy meditation, and consultation with my wife I feel that the correct place for me to continue my professional development is with the Idaho Association of Counties.”

“Know that in whatever capacity I serve in the future, I hope to continue to build partnerships with AIC and its members in resolving the policy matters faced by local units of government.  Many pressing issues confront both cities and counties alike: adequate funding for magistrate court services, paying for Idaho’s public defense system, property tax administration, grappling with property tax caps, and transportation funding, to name a few.”

Grigg was hired by AIC in August 2014 after having served for five years as a Policy Analyst with IAC, where he developed great familiarity with property tax policy and natural resource policy. 

“During Seth’s tenure as Executive Director, AIC successfully advocated for increased transportation funding, protected revenue sharing, preserved annexation authority, and made important changes to local government procurement laws,” said AIC President Jeri DeLange of Hayden.

“The Board of Directors and staff of AIC have the deepest appreciation for Seth’s outstanding service to the association and we look forward to working with him in his new position,” DeLange said. 

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EPA to hold five public meetings in Idaho focusing on IDEQ seeking water quality permitting program

Posted By Johanna Bell, Thursday, September 7, 2017

In 2014, the Idaho Legislature revised Idaho Code to direct the Idaho Department of Environmental Qualilty (DEQ) to seek U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authorization for a state-operated pollutant discharge elimination system permitting program. The current program is operated by EPA and called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The state program will be called the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) program.  This permit program is a key part of the federal Clean Water Act's water pollution control by regulating sources that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States. 

The EPA is accepting public comments on the State of Idaho’s application to assume the role of writing, administering and enforcing water quality discharge permits in the state until October 10th.  Between September 11th and September 15th the EPA will hold five public meetings, immediately followed by five public hearings in the following Idaho cities (all times are local times):

September 11, 2017 - Idaho Falls
Central Public Library
457 W. Broadway, Idaho Falls, ID 83402
208-612-8460
Informational meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Public hearing/testimony begins at 6 pm until complete.

September 12, 2017 - Twin Falls
Twin Falls Public Library
201 Fourth Ave. East, Twin Falls, ID 83301
208-733-2964
Informational meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Public hearing/testimony begins at 6 pm until complete.

September 13, 2017 - Boise
Boise Public Library
715 S Capitol Blvd., Boise, ID 83702
208-972-8200
Informational meeting from 4-5:30pm. Public hearing/testimony begins at 6pm until complete.

September 14, 2017 - Lewiston
Lewiston Community Center (Lewiston Parks and Recreation)
1424 Main St., Lewiston, ID 83501
208-746-2313
Informational meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Public hearing/testimony begins at 6 pm until complete.

September 15, 2017 - Coeur d'Alene
Coeur d'Alene Public Library
702 E Front Ave., Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
208-769-2315
Informational meeting from 2-3:30 pm. Public hearing/testimony begins at 4 pm until complete.

It is AIC’s expectation that the IPDES program will protect the environment, incorporate affordable water quality improvements, and coordinate with the drinking water program to provide universal access to water, waste/reclaimed water, and drainage/stormwater services in support of economic development in Idaho.  AIC has identified a number of opportunities as the IPDES program is developed and implemented.  These opportunities fall into three general categories

  1. Effluent limit considerations that provide regulatory flexibility for increased affordability and innovation;       
  2. An Idaho Financial Capability Analysis or guidance to address the combined Idaho city responsibilities for the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and drainage/stormwater programs; and,
  3. Memorandum of Agreement and future Performance Partnership Agreement terms that help the State and Idaho cities comply with regulations within affordable time lines and avoid premature enforcement actions.  

 

 

 

 

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Completing the Picture: Financial Capability Analysis

Posted By Johanna Bell, Thursday, August 31, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Over half of Idaho cities provide waste/reclaimed water treatment facilities, while 78% provide drinking water.  Additionally, over 99% of Idaho cities are tasked with drainage and stormwater management for impervious surfaces including streets, parking lots, and buildings.  These varied responsibilities require Idaho cities to play important roles as the primary funders of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  

Most, if not all, Idaho cities face complex water quantity and quality issues that are heightened by  issues such as population growth or decline, source water supply and quality, challenging regulations, and aging infrastructure.   To address these complex issues, Idaho cities make significant investments in waste/reclaimed water, drinking water, and drainage infrastructure.  These capital projects can rehabilitate existing systems, improve operation and maintenance, or be implemented to address emerging regulatory requirements.  

Given these issues, it is not surprising that Idaho cities and their utility customers frequently find themselves facing difficult economic challenges with limited financial capabilities.  Guidance issued by the EPA in 2014  recognizes these issues and seeks to address these financial capability challenges by identifying ways the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and States can develop and implement new approaches.  For Idaho cities these new approaches are critical to achieving water quality goals at lower costs and in ways that address the most pressing problems first.

The 2014 EPA guidance recognizes that long-term approaches to meeting Clean Water Act objectives should be sustainable and within a local government or authority’s financial capability; and that financial capability includes Safe Drinking Water Act obligations as well. In short, EPA recognized that the financial capabilities of Idaho cities are important to consider when EPA or the State develop schedules for infrastructure project requirements in permits or enforcement actions to help protect human health and the environment.   This process for evaluating parameters that measure an Idaho city’s financial capability builds upon EPA guidance initially published in 1997. A two-phase approach is applied. The first phase identifies the financial impact of costs (i.e., utility rates) on residential households as a percentage of local median household income (MHI).  The value for this indicator characterizes whether the costs impose a “low,” “medium,” or “high” financial impact on residential users. 

 

Residential Financial Capability Indicators

Financial Impact

Low

Mid-Range

High

Residential Indicator (% of MHI)

< 1.0%

1.0 - 2.0%

> 2.0%

 

The second phase identifies six factors used to evaluate debt, socioeconomic, and financial conditions that affect a city’s financial capability.  These indicators characterize a city’s financial capability as “strong,” “mid-range,” or “weak.”

 

City Financial Capability Indicators

Debt Indicators

Strong

Mid-Range

Weak

1. Bond Ratings

AAA, AA, A

BBB

BB, B, CCC, CC, C, D

2. Overall Net Debt as % of Full Market Property Value

< 2%

2 - 5%

> 5%

 

Socioeconomic Indicators

Strong

Mid-Range

Weak

3. Unemployment Rate

1% < National Average (NA)

+/- 1% NA

1% > NA

4. Median Household Income (MHI)

25% > Adjusted National (AN) MHI

+/- 25% AN MHI

25% < AN MHI

 

Financial Management Indicators

Strong

Mid-Range

Weak

5. Property Tax Revenue Collection Rate

> 98%

94 - 98%

< 94%

6. Property Tax Revenues as % of Full Market Property Value

> 2%

2 - 4%

> 4%

 

AIC believes it is a good idea for Idaho cities to develop or update a "financial capability analysis" periodically and submit their finding to the permitting authority as they re-apply for wastewater discharge permits.  A financial capability analysis is an important tool as Idaho cities protect the environment, incorporate affordable water quality improvements, and coordinate with the drinking water program to provide universal access to water, waste/reclaimed water, and drainage/stormwater services in support of economic development in Idaho. 

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