PSA board approves budget, says it will act as ‘place-holder’

PSA Board Chairman Gerry Lawicki offers opening remarks during a May 18 board meeting.

By Brandon Martin

The Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA) approved their proposed $10,209,057 budget for fiscal year 2020-21.

The total represents a 31.7 percent decrease in the current year’s budget of $14,944,893, and was approved as presented at a May 18 meeting in the Henry County Administration Building.

Throughout the meeting, PSA Chairman Gerry Lawicki and General Manager Tim Hall reiterated that the budget is meant to “act as a placeholder” until more is known about the impacts of coronavirus on the economy.

“We don’t even know what will happen in June,” Lawicki said. “Are we going to open up? Are we not going to open up? It’s going to be a real, real difficult task and Tim, my prayers are with you and everybody in your staff because it’s going to be one rough ride.”

The budget includes no raises for PSA employees but Hall said that he hopes to be able to make it up to some of the employees further down the road, likely with a stipend of some sort. Whatever they decide, he said that it will be “in conjunction with what Henry County and what is done for its employees.”

Hall said that over the past couple of years, there has been a significant jump in claims and cost under their self-insurance policy. That accompanies a 31.7 percent increase in payments made to the Virginia Retirement System.

Moving forward, the plan is for PSA to still continue covering all of the single-subscriber insurance and subsidizing those employees with various levels of family coverage. Anyone with the family coverage still will pay more than they are currently paying but the subsidy should “ease, but not erase, that burden.”

He added that in the midst of everything, there have been some successes as well.

“We have more than 30,000 water meters now being read by the new radio system,” he said. “It makes it much more efficient. Even with that, we are going to start doing some reads from the office. It will be a fix-based system and we will be able to read nearly 6,500 meters that way.

Hall said that the PSA is reducing major revenue streams such as water and wastewater sales by 10 percent but that he anticipates a 13.4 percent decrease in revenues overall. There are no proposals to adjust any of the rates for customers. Residential users now pay $30 a month; non-residential users pay $45 a month; and industrial users pay $68.50 a month.

Deputy Administrator Dale Wagoner said that this was the eighth year without a rate increase and Hall said there has only been one increase in the last 15 years.

The PSA has also taken measures to help residents during straining times from the pandemic by continuing services for those who can’t pay and by waiving online fees for payments. It’s estimated that waiving the online fees costs the PSA about $4,800 a month in expenses.

The board continued that commitment by approving the continuation of their current system and reassessing on a month-to-month basis until economic circumstances are better understood.

The budgeted cash projection as of June 30, 2021 is expected to be $15,604,847 which is $1.2 million more than the previous year end FY19-20 amount of $14,403,504. This number doesn’t include any of the optional capital improvement projects.

If those projects are able to be added into the budget later on, staff will add them by priority. A few of the priorities were replacement of a transfer pump and other pumps and valves at the

Lower Smith River; ongoing repair and maintenance of water towers; and telemetry upgrades across the organization.

The PSA board concluded the meeting on a high note with Director of Reed Creek District Mike Harris praising Hall and his team for their efforts on the budget.

“I think you did a great job with it,” he said. “After reading the budget that I’ve just seen, I don’t think there is going to be a problem. I’d have never believed that any entity like (PSA) could cut down to this level and I’m impressed.”

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