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City: Fibrant off to solid start this fiscal year

Salisbury’s high-speed Internet provider is off to a solid start in the current fiscal year, according to city officials.

Revenues for Fibrant, the city-owned broadband service, were higher than its expenses in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which started July 1.

Fibrant’s revenues totaled $1.5 million, and expenses were $1.3 million, according to Teresa Harris, the city’s financial manager. She updated City Council during its meeting Oct. 21.

The expenses included a $637,000 debt-service payment toward the certificates of participation the city issued in 2008 to raise the $33 million to start Fibrant. The city will make another payment on the interest and one toward the principal later in the fiscal year, according to Interim City Manager John Sofley. He said the total amount the city will pay this year is just over $3 million including interest. Of that total, $1.74 million will be toward the principal, he said.

As of June 30, the amount the city owes on the certificates of participation is $33.8 million.

Fibrant has also borrowed $7.6 million from the city’s water and sewer enterprise in the years since it started. But last year, no interfund loans were made.  And none are planned for the current fiscal year, according to the city’s budget.

The fact revenues were higher than expenses even when including the debt-service payment brought praise from City Council.

“I was really glad to see those Fibrant numbers,” Mayor Paul Woodson said at the end of the report, “That was very encouraging.”

The number of Fibrant customers has increased from slightly more than 3,000 in July to more than 3,200 presently, Harris said at the meeting.

Due to the number of new customers signing up for the service, Sofley said, City Council may be asked to approve additional funding for installations.

“Good problem, because it means you’ve got people signing up,” Sofley told council members. “With those additional sign-ups, we’re actually running a little ahead of our revenue projections.”

Sofley said the long-term plan for Fibrant has always been for it to eventually pay for itself.

He said the goal, financially, is for Fibrant to break even this year. In fact, Sofley said Monday, Fibrant broke even last year — but he said it’s not official until the city’s annual audit is complete.

Fibrant’s budget for the current fiscal year is $6.2 million.

As for the city’s general fund, Harris said the city was “on target” in the first quarter and that 38 percent of the budgeted revenue had been received. The city has a $36 million budget for the year, and Harris said $14 million in revenue came in during the first quarter and that expenses totaled $7.8 million.

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