Water Works Bookkeeping and Accounting
Exhaustive Paper on the La Crosse System by Chief Clerk—Traces It Through Its Various Stages, With Illustrations of Forms Used
AMONG the many letters received by FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING descriptive of the various systems of Water Works Bookkeeping and Accounting in use by the departments, one of the most complete and exhaustive is the paper presented below. It describes the excellent system in use by the water works of the city of La Crosse, Wis., stage by stage, illustrating the article with forms which are numbered consecutively in the order of their use and which are also printed herewith. For this article which, in spite of his modest suggestion that it is not for publication, we present in full, we are indebted to Chief Clerk Kaulfuss of the La Crosse department.
SYSTEM OF THE CITY OF LA CROSSE, WIS.
George P. Bradish, city engineer and president of the board of public works, has turned your letter over to me for reply and compliance with your request. As chief clerk of the board, I will be able to give you, in a very sketchy way. a resume of our system of administration and accounts. I am enclosing copies of the different forms used. These forms are numbered and will be referred to by number.
Inter-Related With Other Departments
At the outset, let me say that there is no superintendent of the water department. Further, the water department is not altogether independent of the rest of the municipal government. The administration is by the board of public works, which administrates four or five other departments. Consequently, our system of accounts is inter-related with those of the other departments. This office handles no money, as all collections are made by the city treasurer and reported to us by him, hence cash books are not necessary.
Six Routes or Districts
We have divided the city into six routes or districts, each of about 1,000 consumers, each district making payment semi-annually, which means that we have a collection from one of these districts every month. The water bill (1) is made out from the information contained on the water ledger cards (2), and that information is in turn taken from the meter reader’s book (3). The water ledger (4) is prepared from (1) and checked by (2) and, after the ledger is totaled and checked, the bills are mailed, always so that the consumers will receive them on the first day of the month in which they are to be collected. A report is then made to the common council and to the city treasurer, showing the total amount to be collected by the latter during the current month. At the end of each day’s business, the city treasurer turns over to us, showing the daily collection, and we make the proper entry in the ledger (4). After the 10th of the month, the delinquent bills are mailed. On the 25th of the month, all unpaid water accounts are again placed on delinquent bills, and our meter reader attempts to collect them by personal calls. Those consumers who do not pay, are shut off about the first of the following month, and in order to have the water turned on again, must pay the original bill plus 15 per cent. penalty, plus one dollar. All accounts which are not paid, are made a special assessment against the property. The ledger of each month is absolutely closed at the end of that month. All unpaid accounts and all errors due to meters being over-read are taken care of by credit slips (5). When an account is settled after the ledger is closed for a certain month, a debit slip and a debit entry are made in the ledger of the month in which the account is settled. After the ledger is closed, a report showing the amount collected is made to the comptroller and to the common council. The treasurer likewise makes a report to the comptroller which shows the amount he has collected for water rentals. The water request and the debit slip above-mentioned are respectively exhibits (7) and (6). The water request is also used for new services.
All But 200 Metered
We have approximately 200 water services (private) which are not metered at present, but we are gradually reducing that number, and should have the entire city metered before the end of 1920. We keep a meter record book, in which is recorded in the order named, the following items:
The date the meter is ordered; the name of the property-owner; the address at which the meter is to be installed; the size and make of the meter; the date paid; the amount; the date the meter is installed, and the tap and folio number. This book serves as a combination order book and ledger.
When a meter is removed for repairs, and again when it is replaced, form (8) is left on the premises by our meter repair department. After the meter is replaced, the department turns over form (9) to this office, the cost of the repairs and labor is computed, and the invoice is rendered (10). Then the repair card (9) is filed by tap number for reference. The meter department, while it is essentially a part of the water department, has its accounts, income and expenditures kept separately.
The water department derives no income from the water used in the public library or its branches, the public schools, the municipal buildings, parks and playgrounds, or for private fire protection, for hydrant rentals and upkeep, or for the water used by the public highways department for street sprinkling. The above-mentioned places are not metered at present. Some of them may be in the near future. Consequently, wastage cannot be accurately determined, even by the expenditure of a great deal of laborious research.
Invoice (10) is the invoice used for all departments of the board of public works. It is made in triplicate, rendered in duplicate, and the third copy is retained in this office on file. At present the ledger containing all water accounts except those heretofore mentioned, contains also entries for all the other departments. I am contemplating discarding this ledger altogether and substituting in its place six ledgers made up entirely of the copies of the invoices.
Monthly Record of Pumpage
Record of water pumpage is kept monthly by the superintendent of the pumping station on form (11) and is filed in this office by month for the purpose of recapitulating any period of time for the annual report to the state railroad commission. Coal and oil consumption is reported to us on forms (12) and (13), which are filed in like manner for a similar purpose. We check this by adding the amount bought in a current year to the amount on hand at the beginning of the year, and subtracting the amount on hand at the end of the year from this total. We have complete inventories semiannually.
Forms (14) and (15) are kept by the men in charge of each system for the purpose of classifying the cost of the labor. This is also a part of the report to the State Railroad Commission.
All local purchases of material and supplies must be made by order (16), and no local firm’s invoice is paid unless accompanied by such order. The head of each department makes out these purchase orders, which are used by all departments of the municipal government. The payment of all accounts is passed upon by the proper committees of the council and by common council as a whole. It is a cumbersome bit of routine, which occasions considerable loss through our inability to take advantage of time discounts.
Journal and Ledger
As regards a journal and its ledger, we have one which was designed for the purpose of facilitating the compiling of the report to the railroad commission. Form (17) is the journal which is a classified record of all disbursements and form (18) is the ledger into which these entries are posted. Recapitulation over any period
of time for any particular subdivision is very simple, and it is my candid opinion that these two books are the only ones in our water department which are absolutely indispensable or irreplaceable.
Here endeth the chapter. Lack of time to prepare this properly for publication makes it advisable for you to rearrange and segregate anything which will be of value to you. In turn, any suggestions you or your readers may wish to make us, with a view to improving our system, will be very gratefully received.
(To be continued)
Votes to be Recounted in Water Bond Issue
When the decision of the voters of Bucyrus. Ohio, last November was announced as rejecting the $560,000 bond issue for purchase of the water system, some citizens filed a petition asking for a recount. The petition was refused on the technical ground that it was not filed within the time limit set by law, and the petitioners appealed the case and the previous court decision was reversed by the court of appeals. This opens the way for a recount of votes which may prove that the bond issue was duly authorized by the police of the city.
Water System Improvements for Lynn
Extensive improvements are planned for the water system of Lynn, Mass. Commissioner Reeves B. Newsom declares that the city will eventually be compelled to construct an immense reservoir on Burrill Hill to meet the growing needs. The hill is 280 feet above high water, and is the highest elevation in the city. The commissioner accompanied the city council in a tour of inspection recently, during which he pointed out to the members the changes required to insure an adequate supply and also efficient and economical operation. He wishes to install a new pump in the pumping station, to replace those now there which were installed respectively in 1872 and 1880, as the first has outlived any usefulness, while the second is capable of serving as a reserve pump in an emergency, if operated in Conjunction with an electrically driven pump. The commissioner would replace them with a turbine driven unit capable of pumping at least 20,000,000 gallons daily. The present daily consumption varies from 8,000,000 to 11,000,000 gallons a day, the heaviest load coming in winter, when many users allow the water to run to avoid freezing. Plans do not contemplate making this improvement this year, however.
Changes in the boilers are under consideration, whereby oil can be used for fuel instead of coal, as the oil is
much cheaper. Commissioner Newsom wishes to purchase a new boiler to take the place of one which has been in service seventeen years and to replace a 36-inch pipe line with a reinforced concrete pipe either 42 or 48 inchs in diameter.
Court Visits Canal in Settling Suit
The New Jersey Court of Chancery recently visited the Morris Canal and the Wanaque watershed in order to obtain first hand information bearing on the suit of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company as lessee of the Morris Canal and Banking Company, to enjoin the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission and the city of Newark from diverting water from the canal in the development of the watershed and the proposed 11,000,000,000-gallon reservoir. The injunction suit was begun in February, 1918, and is based on rights claimed by the Lehigh Valley under its lease to the canal from the Morris Canal and Banking Company, under date of May, 1871. This lease, the railroad contends, gives it the canal with all appurtenances and franchises in perpetuity, and authorizes it to use any surplus water from canal and its feeders to furnish a water supply to any cities along the canal.