PRV always seeking additional fundingBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
With 33,000 acres of water and 17,000 acres of forests, subdivisions and commercial area, Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRV) officials are always on the lookout for new sources of revenue.
“We spend about $12.5 million a year,” John Sigman, PRV general manager, said. “Our budget is $18 million, but the difference usually consists of non-cash items (such as) depreciation, grants, other things we don’t actually pay for… We have to put those on the books as income.”
The difference also resides in the reservoir budgeting for vacant personnel.
“The state personnel board requires (us) to budget for every position for that salary, even if it’s vacant… We have to budget for unfilled positions.”
The PRV has several primary sources of income, including lease payments, water and sewer fees, and timber sales, according to Sigman.
“The property people (lease) for their home and/or business, that is what we primarily use to operate the agency with. It’s about half of (our budget), about $6 million.”
Leases range from $87 to $2,200 a year, with the average lease resting at $500 a year.
The PRV also receives revenue from the water and sewer system.
“That’s about $5.5 million to $6 million. That money stays in the water and sewer fund — we don’t transfer it to other funds.”
In January, PRV officials analyzed the current water and sewer fees.
“We usually raise them every year around April,” said Sigman in a previous Sun article. “We do small increases every year, and that way we don’t have to hit ratepayers with big increases — like 40 or 50 percent increases — at one time.”
Reservoir officials usually raise the prices by four or five percent each year to keep up with the cost of electricity, fuel and other material price increases.
“Government may say inflation is low, but we’ve found that four to five percent each year is how much expenses increase.”
The PRV also has 8,000 acres of timber managed for habitat and income.
“But we haven’t had a timber sale of any significance in five to seven years,” Sigman said. “It’s periodic at best and usually not that much money.”
Sigman said PRV officials might soon have to harvest the timber, “because as it ages, it loses value.” The PRV won’t receive any funds from timber if the trees are dead.
Timber sales in the last seven years have been less than $20,000, but Sigman said he’s seen sales as high as $500,000 in past years.
“Then we have miscellaneous income like building permits and park revenue, which doesn’t even cover the cost of hiring the guy who collects the money.”
In June, the PRV increased building permit fees after keeping prices steady for 10 years.
“It’s an effort to cover output and everything that’s gone up,” Sigman said. “We attempt to address regulations and fees in the January and February time frame… We haven’t adjusted anything in 10 years. We really should do it more often.”
The small price increases have generated a nominal amount of money for the reservoir. Sigman said the price increase only affects builders and is meant to cover miscellaneous effects such as small plumbing, mechanical and electrical items; rental property license and inspection; and foundation repairs.
However, most of the PRV revenue is spent on payroll.
“That’s the biggest. There’s also equipment, fuel and commodities such as riprap, timber piling, gravel, dirt, construction items,” Sigman explained. “Our audit report is on our Web site for whoever’s inclined to look into it.”
Sigman said the PRV does not receive any revenue from police citations. Fines issued in the PRV district go to the county or city in which the ticket is issued.
“We do write them, but that money goes to the county or city.”
To help raise more funds, Sigman said the PRV board has looked into a boating, or lake usage, fee in the past.
“We’ve tried to implement that a couple of times, and it has not succeeded. The first time we tried it, the legislature prohibited it in our budget bill. The second time, there was so much backlash from leaseholders that the board declined to implement it.”
At one point, reservoir officials discussed hunting and camping fees.
“There are none and I don’t predict any in the future. We’ve discussed them from time to time, but it was not something the public was going to accept.”
In the past, the PRV has requested state funding, which has gone toward road improvements and other projects.
“It’s only been for capital projects. We do not request state funds for operating expenses.”
The rez also sells license tags for residents in the PRV district. Each tag says “THE REZ” and costs $31, $26 of which the PRV gets.
“We make about $8,000 a year. It helps but you’re not getting ramps rebuilt or streets repaved… We had no expectation (of funds). We didn’t cast a goal, but we felt like it would be worthy for us to do.”
The reservoir is only one of two lakes in the state that can be used for free. The other is Eagle Lake north of Vicksburg.
The PRV also offers draw hunting, archery draw hunts for deer both below the Barnett Reservoir Dam and the north shore of Pelahatchie Bay.
This is the fifth year of the program, and 17 six-day hunts are offered on five different areas — two in the coveted woods below the dam, one on each side of the spillway, and three in Pelahatchie Bay.
This year’s special hunting permit applications were accepted from August 4 through August 18. Sigman said the PRV makes about $10,000 each year from the hunts.
“We have five different locations designated for archery for deer on a draw basis,” Sigman said. “You pay between $200 and $600 for a six-day hunt, and you’re the only person in there… We try to turn those funds back into things that will benefit hunters.”
Lastly, the PRV has implemented fees for special events in the district’s parks.
“That’s one of the miscellaneous incomes. If someone wants to put on a special event in the park, they rent out the park and it ranges from $500 to $1,500. We have between five and 10 (reservations) per year.”
The reservoir is charging for people to enter the reservoir parks on weekends and holidays during the summer months, but officials are saying it keeps riff-raff down.
“We do charge a vehicle control fee on weekends and holidays from noon until closing at sunset. It goes from Memorial Day until Labor Day. It started early this year because of the mild winter and the activity started a little earlier.”
Sigman said people are charged $5 per car load. Walkers, bicyclists and residents with a “rez tag” don’t have to pay the fee.
This is the fourth year the reservoir officials have imposed the fee, but the regulations have been ready to be put in place for 20 years.
“At one time, we had 1,500 people show up at Old Trace Park. They were not there to enjoy the park. They were there to fight and drink, and I’m sure there were other things going on. So, we re-implemented the fee and that cut it out.”
Sigman said when the fee was originally imposed two decades ago, officials found it wasn’t necessary because gas prices increased and many people stopped “pleasure riding.”
The reservoir collects anywhere between $500 and $1,500 per weekend from the fee, but Sigman said it’s not quite enough to cover the cost of administering the fee.
However, officials will continue to charge the fee each year indefinitely at Old Trace, Lakeshore and Pelahatchie parks.
“We do not charge at other parks and at boat ramps. These bigger parks are the ones that have had that kind of (negative) activity.”
Recently, the PRV has begun to upgrade Madison Landing and is currently in the process of designing a new boat ramp, parking lot and pier east of Sunset Marina.
“It’s coming from an old grant, an earmark grant that came through Sen. (Thad) Cochran. The grant is around $600,000, and we have to put in $200,000. So it’s going to be about $800,000.”
Sigman said the new improvements and additions will alleviate congestion and park problems at Goshen Springs Center. Sigman said he hopes construction will be complete within a year.