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Village Council

At the most recent Village Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, council members gave first readings to several ordinances that would increase the rates of electric, water and sewage utilities. Present at the meeting were council members Marianne Macqueen, Gavin DeVore Leonard, Carmen Brown, Council Vice President Kevin Stokes, Council President Brian Housh and Village Manager Josué Salmerón. (Video still)

Village Council plans utility increases

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After several months of crunching numbers and receiving feedback, Village Council members heard a first reading on a series of ordinances that would increase the rates of electric, water and sewer utilities at their most recent meeting, Monday, Feb. 6.

The ordinances include new proposals for rates, which would increase steadily over the course of five years — 3% per year for electricity, 5% per year for sewer and 8% per year for water.

The new rates are a change from legislation proposed in December, which would have had a higher increase for 2023 and then lower increases each year through 2027.

The increases come after a presentation from Courtney & Associates at Council’s Nov. 21 meeting  that suggested a phased-in rate increase for water, sewer and electric. According to Village Manager Josué Salmerón in November, the study looked at utility usage and Village expenditures for over a year.

“The results of that study indicated that we needed to increase our revenues by significant percentages,” Salmerón said.

Following the presentation from Courtney & Associates, Salmerón held a Town Hall meeting on Jan. 11, where villagers asked questions and expressed concerns over the proposed rate hikes. At that meeting, villagers Susan Stiles and Pan Reich asked if there was a way to do a lower, more even distribution of the increase.

I think 2–3% per year is probably more reasonable,” Stiles said at the time.

According to a Feb. 1 memo from Courtney & Associates, the newly proposed legislation is a response to the requests from villagers and comes after a meeting with Village staff to determine if lower rate increases would significantly impact the fund balances.

“Each utility fund will see a reduction in the fund balance during the first couple of years of the phase-in,” Courtney said. “Given the current fund balances, these reductions will not result in fund balances falling below acceptable levels.”

Salmerón said the extension of the phasing-in period was, in part, due to additional information the Village gained from looking at its cash supply after the end of 2022.

“The starting line based on the study would have had us start with less money than we [actually] had at the end of the year,” Salmerón said. “We are starting in a better position.”

Specifically addressing the electric fund, Salmerón said the Village has seen a 9% increase in cost from open market electricity sales. In addition to higher cost, the Village has had no growth and has had lower electricity sales; all of these factors went into determining the 3% adjustment. Salmerón said the 3% would affect the power cost adjustment, or PCA, which is a portion of a customer’s overall bill, which also includes a readiness for service fee and a kilowatt tax in addition to the 11 cents/kilowatt-hour charge for the actual electricity.

Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard said he felt hearing the breakdown of the numbers softened the blow of the increase.

“I feel like we were overstating the change,” he said. “It’s 3% of one piece of [a customer’s] bill.”

According to a memo from Salmerón, the average electric customer uses 877 kWh per month. Using that rate, Salmerón determined the annual increase would be $7.23, or 60 cents a month.

“I’ll add a disclaimer that the PCA we calculated was using the average for 2022,” he said. “The number will change month to month because the PCA changes from month to month.”

In response to questions from a letter penned by Susan Stiles, Salmerón said that residential customers would not be offsetting costs for business customers.

“Businesses pay a demand charge in addition to a kilowatt charge,” he said.

Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said the rate businesses pay for service is dependent on the location and nature of the business. 

“Downtown businesses pay the same as residential,” Burns said, explaining that businesses seeing the lower kilowatt-hour charge own their own transformers and use higher amounts of electricity. “It’s even across the board.”

Diving into the specifics of the water bills, Salmerón said customers would see an increase to the readiness for service fee and the water consumption fee. On average, households use about 3,000 gallons of water per month, Salmerón said. Using that figure, and the proposed 8% increase, customers would see an annual increase of $44.64, or $3.72 per month in 2023.

Salmerón said the same methodology was used to determine sewer rate changes. The 5% increase would affect both the readiness for service charge and the consumption charge, which is based on the number of gallons of water a property uses each month. Using the same 3,000 gallon per month average, Salmerón said customers would see an annual increase of $25.44, or $2.12 per month.

“I want to highlight that the cost drivers of our rates are personnel, supplies, contractual services and capital investments,” Salmerón said. “We are looking to cover the cost.”

Despite having a second reading scheduled for the Tuesday, Feb. 20, meeting, Housh called for a vote on the proposal, which Council members unanimously supported.

Additional coverage of the Monday, Feb. 6 meeting will appear in next week’s issue of the News.


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