ANGEL FIRE — The Village of Angel Fire owes Kit Carson Electric Cooperative $51,772.53 for past-due electricity charges and late fees, according to municipal documents dated March 18.
The outstanding balance includes $48,359.82 in unpaid service charges and $3,412.71 in late fees, the documents state.
Angel Fire Manager M. Jay Mitchell said the village’s delinquent payments are partly due to Kit Carson’s late payment of the municipality’s franchise fees. The co-op must pay the franchise fees to the village in exchange for operating there.
“We are negotiating with Kit Carson based on the fact that some of their franchise fee payments have also been late to us. It’s a give and take. If your payment’s late to us, we’re late getting back because it’s the same revenues we use,” he said. “We’re talking about it with them all the time and working out the franchise fees because we’re trying to get better documentation that we’re getting all of our annexed areas and all the franchise fees are included instead of just getting a check with an amount on it.”
Kit Carson CEO Luis Reyes said he does not consider the co-op’s payments to be late.
Reyes said the co-op pays the franchise fees quarterly, and they are based on the amount of electricity used. The bills for one month don’t come out until the next one, he said, so the amount owed in franchise fees for January through March can’t be calculated until April.
“I think there’s just an interpretation issue,” he said. “But when I met with them a couple months ago and resolved that, they saw how that billing cycle works.”
Reyes said he does not expect the co-op to disconnect the village’s electricity service as a result of the municipality’s unpaid fees.
“We have the right to disconnect accounts that are delinquent, but we work with municipalities because some of the accounts are water, wastewater — they’re tied to public safety,” he said, adding that the co-op and the village have worked out a payment agreement. “We certainly want them to pay, but I think we have a good enough relationship with the Village of Angel Fire and trust their leadership that they will meet the arrangement.”
Mitchell said the village owed Kit Carson more than $70,000 when he became administrator Oct. 22.
“We’ve got it way down. When I was hired, we hadn’t paid bills as far back as July 9,” he said. “We paid them all off, with the exception of some of these late fees, which we’ve already negotiated some of them away.”
Mitchell noted that the village’s enterprise accounts are responsible for all of the past-due charges, and “our general fund is actually flush.” He said the village’s total accounts payable has been reduced by $400,000 since he became administrator.
“We’re up-to-date on all our general fund billing, because we had general fund revenues come in with our property taxes that were paid in December and January, plus we had additional revenues for (gross receipts taxes) for the winter and everything else,” he said. “So we were able to catch up for the first time, I’ve heard, in well over a year on our general fund.”
The enterprise funds are for the solid waste, water and wastewater departments. Mitchell said state law prohibits the village from using taxpayer money from the general fund to help balance the enterprise funds.
“In the past, those accounts have been swapped and mingled and everything else,” he said. “But being ex-military, I don’t play that game.”
The village is auditing each individual property served by its utilities to ensure the enterprise funds are receiving all the revenue they should, Mitchell said.
“The utility side of the house, which is an enterprise fund, is a stand-alone business. So we’re trying to work out ways to make the business flush,” he said, adding that he believes significant revenues are lost to billing issues. “We’re trying to clean up our billing practices, our billing cycles, and updating all of our property lists and billing documents.”
Mitchell also said the village needs more wastewater customers to make that particular service profitable.
“Our wastewater runs at a deficit,” he said. “Our facility costs and our debt load are higher than our current revenues to operate the wastewater fund because we can’t get enough customers hooked up, and we’ve got to expand that capability throughout the village to get a better customer base.”
Mitchell said he is not sure when the village will pay off the amount it owes Kit Carson, but he believes municipal officials will be able to negotiate the charges down.
“It depends on the revenues in the next couple months, and then we’ve got some payoffs due,” he said. “I’m just happy that currently it’s all enterprise and we can deal with that based on revenues and incomes on the enterprise side.”