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Alameda telecom busting budgets

Submitted by on 1, August 19, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

Last night we attended the Public Utilities Board meeting to try to get a little more scoop on this informal fiscal performance update for Alameda Power & Telecom’s just-completed fiscal year, which the utility put up on its website late last week.

Basically, the report shows that the telecom side of the utility overspent on administration, operations and “Internet expense,” mostly balancing its budget by forgoing capital projects last year – though they did manage to get by without any more of those interfund transfers, thankyouverymuch.

The telecom’s administration costs were $426,364, or about 28 percent, over a $1.5 million budget according to this preliminary summary of events. The telecom budgeted $996,200 for operations and spent $1.55 million, going over budget by $550,791 or 55 percent. It went 11 percent, or $95,958 over its internet expense budget of around $885,000. Programming expenses, engineering and marketing all came in under budget, the report shows.

In all, the telecom went over budget by almost $670,000, according to the report. But it covered most of the expenses by forgoing capital projects, spending a fraction of the $728,000 budgeted.

So what more did we find out? Well, not all that much. Three board members commented on the report without even mentioning the cost overruns (one board member, who we won’t name here, praised the four pager as a “wonderful executive summary and the kind of report that really excites you”) before one brave soul, Peter Holmes, mentioned that the telecom’s administrative expenses “stuck out” to him.

Financial services supervisor Barry Leska told Holmes operating expenses were up in part because the telecom is paying overtime to installers to hook up new cable subscribers. (And how’s that possible if AP&T is losing cable subscribers? Constant turnover in the city’s many apartments, apparently.)

We asked Leska for more information about what those administration expenses were, but he said he didn’t have the details. Leska wouldn’t even tell us what “administration” covers, and administrative services supervisor Bob Orbeta told us to e-mail our questions to the utility’s spokesman in the morning.

Again, we’re noting that these are not official financials for the utility; those are due next month. We’re hoping to have more for you then.

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