Getting down to business

High school seniors analyze town's water/sewer fund

Elizabeth High School Future Business Leaders of America, from left, Zack Perry, Douglas Coulter and Aleigha Mace are headed to the State Conference on April 27 to present their study on the Town of Elizabeth’s Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.
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Seniors involved in the Future Business Leaders of America at Elizabeth High School have been working with the Town of Elizabeth to do a case analysis of the town's Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.

“The water and sewer system of the town was running at a deficit and he (Town Administrator Dick Eason) wanted a way to turn it into a self-sustaining enterprise,” said Zack Perry, the project manager for the FBLA Chapter.

The students used a study that was done by the University of North Carolina that taught how to structure a small town water system as far as pricing.

Elizabeth has 14 different pricing tiers, which is higher than any rate structure that the FBLA examined, according to Perry and fellow FBLA member Aleigha Mace.

“The most we looked at is three to four,” Mace said. “Even in just lowering the number of tiers we increased there was an added profit of $200,000.”

Douglas Coulter, another student on the FBLA team, said it was interesting to see how municipalities work.

“A municipality has a lot more attention because they pretty much do control the rates they get,” Coulter stated.

The FBLA presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of Trustees on April 8.

“They did a fantastic job,” Eason said.

Eason explained that the town's Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund is not supported by taxes, but instead is completely funded by user fees.

“So if we are not charging for our products but costs are going up, that can be a long-term problem,” Eason said.

The town has not raised fees for about five years, according to FBLA faculty adviser John Loutzenhiser.

Mace said it was a bit of a challenge to speak at the public meeting.

“It was pretty nerve racking,” she said “Everyone was pretty chill about it and knew we are high school students and this is the first big thing we've ever done. This is the first time I've ever spoken in front of a group of people who weren't teenagers.”

Loutzenhiser is proud of his students.

“We want the enterprise in this town to run like a business,” he said. “This really puts the students on the spot to apply the fundamentals.

“This is an experience transferable/applicable to other areas of their lives. It's not wasted time and they did something useful for their community.”

The students were equally enthusiastic.

“If I had the opportunity I'd definitely do something like this again. I learned so much about businesses and the way towns work and stuff like that,” Mace said.

“I was pretty excited about it. I usually don't get the opportunity to present to real-world people,” Perry added. “It's usually a panel of judges, and it's kind of interesting to see what they thought about the project. We're presenting this project as a partnership to this business up at state.”

The Elizabeth High School FBLA State Conference will be held the last weekend of April.