Quarterly Report: 2014, October - December (Q2), Tatitlek

Community:
Tatitlek 
Staff:
Jedediah Smith  
DCRA Regional Office:
Anchorage 
Gov't Type:
Federally Recognized Tribe 
Borough:
 
Agreement?
Yes 
Agreement Date:
10/9/2013 
Entity:
Native Village of Tatitlek 
Population:
76 (2012 Alaska Department of Labor Estimate) 
Assessment Status:
Assessment Completed 
Assessment Date:
8/16/2012 
Exp Date:
10/8/2015 
Last Updated:
1/7/2014 
Community Sanitation Overview:
Tatitlek is located on the northeast shore of Tatitlek Narrows, on the Alaska Mainland in Prince William Sound. It lies near Bligh Island, southwest of Valdez by sea and 30 air miles northwest of Cordova. Tatitlek is a coastal Alutiiq village with a fishing- and subsistence-based culture. The population is currently 76. Surface water is treated and stored in a 170,000-gallon tank. Forty-three homes and community buildings have piped water and wastewater service. The piped community wastewater tank system discharges via an ocean outfall.  
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
RUBA staff traveled to Tatitlek in October to meet with the Village IRA administrator and the Village IRA Council president. During the visit RUBA staff was given an overview of the accounting procedures for the utility and found that there is no current budget for the water or wastewater utility, electric utility, or for fuel sales. Additionally, the administrator expressed concern regarding the upcoming fuel purchase. The IRA is currently selling fuel for $5.91 per gallon, which is less than the delivered cost. RUBA staff recommended that the council increase the resale price to be more in line with costs, as well as to contact the State of Alaska’s bulk fuel loan program. RUBA staff also toured the water treatment plant, provided the administrator with information on upcoming water operator certification trainings, and gathered information about boil water notices in the community. In December RUBA staff sent photos of the water plant from the October trip to the community’s Remote Maintenance Worker (RMW). The photos depicted disorganized and potentially hazardous conditions in the water treatment plant. The RMW forwarded the photos to the regional non-profit corporation coordinator that oversees the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) for the community, which would begin patrolling the plant to observe any potential illegal activity. RUBA staff also provided comments and updates to the Tatitlek Village IRA Administrator, who had previously requested assistance during an on-site visit earlier in the quarter. This quarter RUBA staff also reviewed the job descriptions for all positions at the tribe, including the water plant operator, billing clerk and maintenance positions. RUBA staff made several suggestions for improving the specific duties assigned in the positions and sent the job descriptions back to the administrator as requested. RUBA staff also sent the administrator a copy of the authorization to request tax information to be signed by the Tribal President. Tatitlek has expressed interest in working with RUBA staff to improve overall management indicators for the utility. RUBA staff wrote up a work plan and obtained a signed RUBA agreement with the community. According to the work plan, RUBA staff will assist the council in preparing a more detailed budget, will perform a utility rate study and review job descriptions. The council will agree to meet regularly to review the utility budget and make changes and amendments as necessary. A member of the community has been identified as interested in obtaining a water plant operations certificate. The council agreed to provide support for training, and will seek funding through the regional non-profit association. 
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
RUBA staff hope to schedule a visit to Tatitlek in January, accompanied by the Remote Maintenance Worker. The purpose of this trip will be to conduct a water utility rate study and meet with the council to discuss the utility budget.
Scores:
 
Essential Indicators:
14 of 26
Sustainable Indicators:
13 of 27
Total Score:
27 of 53

Finances

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
No All revenues and expenses for the utility are listed in the utility budget.
No The utility has adopted a balanced realistic budget.
No Monthly financial reports are prepared and submitted to the policy making board.
No The utility is current in paying all water/wastewater electric bills.
No The utility has on hand a year's adequate fuel supply or it has a financial plan to purchase an adequate supply.
No The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources) sufficient to cover operating expenses.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources sufficient to cover operating expenses and Repair & Replacement (R) costs.
No YTD revenues are at a level equal to or above those budgeted.
No YTD expenditures are at a level equal to or below those budgeted.
No A monthly manager's report is prepared.
No Budget amendments are completed and adopted as necessary.
Finances Comments
The Tatitlek Village IRA Council is the governing body of the utility. The utility is fully subsidized by the community; residents do not pay any fees for water or wastewater services. The community pays the salary of the water operator, phone, and internet costs related to the utility. Chugachmiut - the regional tribal consortium - pays for fuel and supplies associated with the water and wastewater utilities. The community is working with an accountant outside the community at Aleut Accounting for overall bookkeeping services, with tribal office staff taking responsibility for the day-to-day workings of the community, payroll, and electric utility invoicing. Documents were not supplied and therefore could not confirm that YTD revenues and expenditures correspond with budgeted amounts. As the financial recording system is refined and the budget is expanded in detail, it will become easier to evaluate the relationship between intended income and expense with actual amounts. The community schedules monthly meetings, but is not always successful at establishing a quorum, particularly in the summer months. Fuel is readily available, with purchases made as needed. The community orders fuel from Whittier. The prior vendor was Crowley, but the community felt their fuel was too expensive. Access by barge is year-round, as the Prince William Sound is ice-free. The community sells heating fuel to residents from an Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) sponsored bulk fuel facility. Electricity is provided by the Tatitlek Electric Utility.

Accounting Systems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has adopted a collection policy and actively follows it.
No The utility bills customers on a regular basis.
No An accounts receivable system is in place which tracks customers and reports past due accounts and amounts.
Yes An accounts payable system is in place.
Yes The payroll system correctly calculates payroll and keeps records.
Yes A cash receipt system is in place that records incoming money and how it was spent.
Yes The utility has a cash disbursement system that records how money was spent.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes A chart of accounts is used that identifies categories in a reasonable, usable manner.
Yes Monthly bank reconciliations have been completed for all utility accounts.
Yes The utility has a purchasing system that requires approval prior to purchase, and the approval process compares proposed purchases to budgeted amounts.
Accounting Systems Comments
Tatitlek uses QuickBooks for all its accounting. The payroll system is set up accurately and correctly calculates payroll taxes. The tribal administrator reconciles bank statements each month. To date, monthly financial statements are not produced for the council; the tribal administrator intends to institute this practice. The community contracts with Aleut Accounting, an experienced accountant working outside the community. Regular communication and interaction between the Tatitlek Tribal Administrator and the community's accountant keep financial accounting current.

Tax Problems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a system to accurately calculate, track, and report payroll tax liabilities.
Yes The utility is current on filing tax reports.
Yes The utility is current on making tax deposits.
N/A If there are any past due tax liabilities or recorded tax liens, a lien release has been issued or a repayment agreement has been signed and repayments are current.
Tax Problems Comments
RUBA staff has an IRS form 8821 on file with the IRS to inform if the entity has any outstanding tax liabilities. The Tribe uses a QuickBooks subscription service that automatically submits employment tax payments and filings to the IRS. On December 16, the Alaska Department of Labor reported the Tatitlek Village IRA is compliant with state tax filing requirements and is not on the October 2013 Lien Watch report.

Personnel System

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a posted workers compensation insurance policy in effect.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has adopted and uses a Personnel Policy, which has been reviewed by an attorney, AML or Commerce for topics and language.
Yes The utility has adequate written job descriptions for all positions.
No The utility has adopted and follows a written personnel evaluation process that ties the job description to the evaluation.
No The utility has an adequate written hiring process.
Yes The utility has personnel folders on every employee that contain at least: I-9, Job Application and Letter of Acceptance.
Yes The utility has a probationary period for new hires that includes orientation, job training/oversight, and evaluations.
Yes The utility provides training opportunities to staff as needed and available.
Personnel System Comments
The utility has a posted workers compensation insurance policy in effect. Additionally, the community has a comprehensive and well written personnel policy. Job descriptions are available for all positions, and were updated in a staff workshop which took place during this on-site visit. Individual personnel folders contain all required information, including I-9s, job applications, and personnel actions. Although adopted personnel policy calls for a probationary period for new hires and regular employee evaluation, this policy has not been applied under prior administrations. Current staff recognize the value of regular verbal and written evaluation, and intend to reinstate the practice. Money has been budgeted for costs of employee travel to trainings, as well as council member attendance at state-wide conferences. The community places a high priority in offering ongoing support for its employees to attend training opportunities. The administrator has expressed the need to review policies and procedures with a particular focus on overtime eligibility for the utility operator.

Organizational Management

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The entity that owns the utility is known; the entity that will operate the utility is set.
No The policy making body is active in policy making of the utility.
No The policy making body enforces utility policy.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained manager.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained bookkeeper.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained operator or operators.
Yes The utility has adopted the necessary ordinances (or rules and regulations) necessary to give it the authority to operate.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has adopted an organizational chart that reflects the current structure.
Yes The policy making body meets as required.
No The utility complies with the open meeting act for all meetings.
Organizational Management Comments
As meeting minutes for the Tatitlek IRA Council have been not provided to RUBA staff, it is unknown whether the policy-making body is adequately involved in utility policy. There are no fees for water or wastewater services, so a collections policy is not necessary. As an IRA Council, meetings where only tribal business is discussed are not covered by the Open Meetings Act (OMA), however any council meeting with discussion regarding projects accessing state funds (Community Revenue Sharing, state grants, etc.) is required to be open to the public and posted with reasonable notice. Currently, council meetings are not posted, although the tribal administrator notes that they are typically open to the public. The water utility was in fact built and repaired with public funds, so deliberations concerning the water utility are subject to the OMA.

Operation of Utility

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility operator(s) are actively working towards necessary certification.
No The utility has a preventative maintenance plan developed for the existing sanitation facilities.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The manager receives a monthly O&M report from the utility operator and routinely "spot checks" the facilities to see that the maintenance items are being completed.
No The utility has a safety manual and holds safety meetings.
Yes Utility facilities have not suffered any major problems/outages due to management issues that are unresolved.
Yes The utility is operating at the level of service that was proposed.
No The operator provides status reports to the manager on a routine basis.
No The utility has completed and distributed its "Consumer Confidence Report".
Yes The utility is not on the "Significant Non-Complier" (SNC) list.
No The utility maintains an inventory control list.
No The utility maintains a critical spare parts list.
Operation of Utility Comments
Tatitlek’s water operator holds Level 1 Water Treatment certification expiring on December 31, 2013. Continued Education Unit (CEU) requirements for re-certification have not yet been met. RUBA staff encouraged the Tatitlek IRA to recruit a member of the community to serve as a new water treatment operator and to pursue provisional operator certification training. To date, this recruitment effort has been unsuccessful. The utility does not hold designated or documented safety meetings. There have been no major outages of the utility due to managerial errors. A notable issue in the operation of the utility is that the water operator is working without direct communication or management from administrative staff. During a work session in which RUBA staff facilitated the construction of an organizational chart, participants placed the position of the water operator as disconnected from the rest of the organization. There is not a trained back-up water operator in the community. Two of the tribal staff volunteered during our meetings to attend training to get provisional licensure in water operations: one of these volunteers is from the administrative office and the other from public works. This lack of communication resulted in an absence of a direct interview with the water operator during this on-site assessment visit. Public works personnel and office staff do not know of inventory control or spare parts lists, and those documents were not produced for this assessment. A preventive maintenance plan was similarly not obtained. Testing is done regularly. Administrative staff state that a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) has not been produced in recent years. The water utility is not listed on the October 2013 Significant Non-Compiler List.