Perhaps unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely affect Bryan Municipal Utilities in terms of which infrastructural improvement projects it can afford to take on next year.

BMU Operations Manager Dawn Fitzcharles gave the Bryan Board of Public Affairs an update on the BMU electric, water and communication funds during the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday.

The Electric Department started 2020 with a total fund balance of about $16.6 million between its regular fund and the capital reserve fund.

The funds’ collective balance now stands at about $15.1 million, although there are about $8.4 million in encumbrances unpaid leaving an anticipated cash balance $6.7 million by the year’s end.

Total revenue projected for 2020 was originally $19.8 million, but BMU’s latest budget forecast anticipates that total will be down to about $17.3 million, an aproximately $2.3 million shortfall.

Much of that is due to decreased energy usage from BMU’s commercial and industrial customers, with residential usage actually being slightly up in 2020.

“That makes sense with more people at home,” Fitzcharles said.

The Water Department started the year with a balance of about $2.3 million between its regular fund and capital reserve fund.

The funds’ collective balance now stands at about $1.9 million, with only $81,529 in encumbrances unpaid. BMU anticipates a year-end cash balance of about $1.6 million between the two Water Department funds.

Like the Electric Department, water usage is up among residential customers, but down for commercial and industrial customers. BMU’s initial 2020 budget anticipated $2.3 million in water revenue with the updated forecast only slightly lower, at $2.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Communications Department has “fared pretty well,” Fitzcharles said, and the fund balance is higher now ($2.29 million) than it was at the year’s start ($2.28 million).

While board members were upbeat about the report, especially compared to initial fear when the pandemic took hold in March, Fitzcharles said BMU may have to revise some plans as budgeting for next year continues.

“Where I see our struggles being at this point is being able to determine what we’re going to do with capital projects next year,” she said, later adding: “I think we’re going to be fine, but I think it’s going to require we take a little different path, or the same path a little slower.”

Tuesday’s meeting concluded with a closed, executive session for the board to discuss employment and compensation of public employees and the acquisition of property, with no following action reported to The Bryan Times as of press deadline.

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