Amy Cunningham
Members of the Gardner Electric Utility board learned Thursday evening that their Fiscal Fitness is on pretty solid ground.
Jennifer Moore of the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency (KMEA) presented that group’s findings to the board on Gardner Electric’s financial credit scoring, comparing our city’s electric with other similar operations in the state.
Using 2009 numbers, the KMEA looked at several areas of interest including operating ratios, debt ratios and qualitative factors such as operating and maintenance funds, general funds and, finally, took into account information on the population of the city.
The report, part of the KMEA’s new Fiscal Fitness Program, is a project designed to assess the financial status of the agency’s member organizations.
Organizers hope to use the data they collect as a tool to make recommendations on areas where member utilities could make improvements.
“(Gardner’s results) were very strong in comparison to the other cities we’ve looked at,” said Moore.  She explained that the program is still in its infancy, having sampled only 14 other utilities, and that numbers could potentially change as more cities are evaluated.  “We’re not giving out a lot of recommendations yet, we’re just looking at results.  We want to get more data before we make those.”
While Moore wasn’t officially ready to give recommendations, she was able to relay a positive evaluation.
“From what I’ve seen in Gardner you guys are sitting pretty well.  You’ve got some policies in place and, I would say, you have just a few tweaks to make,” she said.
Board members were pleased with KMEA’s findings.  Member Eric Shultz reminded the group that numbers from 2009 may not reflect the current status of Gardner Electric’s financial health.
“These are 2009 numbers, if you run 2010 we’re in much better shape now,” he stated.
The KMEA is an organization that works with (municipal) utilities. They monitor legislative and regulatory issues and advocate on the behalf of their members.  The group also oversees a Mutual Aid program for electrical crises.  Finally, they are a watchdog organization that keeps up on the latest trends and events that will affect the industry in order to keep members informed.
Other business items the board:
•Reviewed preliminary revenue numbers for 2010.  Based on early numbers, Gardner Electric’s revenue exceeded expectations coming in at $14.7 million, up from the projected $13.7 million the utility hoped to generate.  Electric Director Bill Krawczyk said that when final numbers are tallied later this month revenue could be at 105 percent of projections.
•Approved a transfer of ($1.5 million) from the Operating Reserve Fund to the Capital Replacement Reserve Fund.  Krawczyk said that this money would give the utility some wiggle room should a major asset in the system break.
He believes that the fund should have $2.5 million to be used for such incidents.  Currently the fund is at $579,000.
•Authorized the purchase of a used four drum wire puller at a negotiated price of $85,000.
•Revised the 2011 Gardner Energy salary schedule to change one generation substation technician position to a maintenance worker position.  Krawczyk said that doing so would meet the needs of the utility and save money.
•Recognized Marc Sanders for the completion of apprenticeship and his qualification as a line maintainer