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Revenue is projected to exceed expenses at Central Arkansas Water next year, leaving a projected $54.6 million in carryover money by the end of 2018.

Operating revenue at the Little Rock-based utility is projected to increase by a little more than 4 percent to $67,314,223 next year. Other funding sources, such as bond proceeds, receipt of loan payments and grants, raise the total amount of budgeted 2018 funding to $92.6 million.

Operating expenses are expected to increase by about 1.9 percent to almost $57 million. Other payments and debt service, plus almost $29 million in capital expenditures, raise the total 2018 projected spending by the utility to $85.2 million.

Adding that excess to the more than $47 million carried over from 2017 would give the utility a $54.6 million balance by the end of next year.

The agency's five-year plan shows that balance steadily decreasing through 2022 as sources of funding decrease while expenses go up. Central Arkansas Water projects that by 2022, there will be $31.4 million left in its carryover account.

The utility will get almost $25 million in bond proceeds next year for projects, while that amount fluctuates from just above $1 million to $13 million in any given year over the next four years.

Spending on capital projects will go up by almost 30 percent next year to $32.3 million. Much of it will be paid for with bond money. About $10.3 million will be funded through water rate revenue, and $750,000 will be funded from 2017 carryover funds.

The utility will experience increased health insurance costs in 2018, and it budgeted for a 3 percent increase in salaries. Those increases account for an $841,000 jump in wages and benefit costs in the budget.

"Keep in mind that this is not a 3 percent raise in salary to all employees. This is the total budgeted amount for wage adjustments including any merit, cost of living or skills-based pay increases," said Douglas Shackelford, the utility's director of public affairs and communications.

The Central Arkansas Water board of commissioners approved the 2018 budget unanimously last week.

Central Arkansas Water serves about 400,000 people in the region and bills about 120,000 customers each month. The utility was created in a merger between the Little Rock and North Little Rock water utilities in 2001.

Metro on 11/20/2017

Print Headline: Water utility projects '18 surplus; But $54.6 million carryover predicted to shrink through ’22

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