Archive for Wednesday, August 5, 2009

City mill levy to go down slightly, but electric rates could soar

Baldwin's City Council discussed a possible 11.5 percent increase in electrical rates, along with this year's budget at Monday's meeting.

Baldwin's City Council discussed a possible 11.5 percent increase in electrical rates, along with this year's budget at Monday's meeting.

August 5, 2009

Good news is the city’s mill levy will go down slightly next year. Bad news is it will likely take an 11.5 percent increase in electrical rates to do that.

That’s what the Baldwin City Council found out at Monday’s meeting where a public hearing was conducted for the 2010 budget totaling almost $14 million, which is a reduction of 14 percent from last year. It will take 30.547 mills in taxes to produce that, a reduction from last year’s 31.407 or a decrease of 0.86 of a mill.

But City Administrator Jeff Dingman said it would take the 11.5 percent rate hike in electricity to make the budget work. To offset a $233,000 shortfall in the electric utility this year, a reserve fund had to be tapped. Most of the city’s power is bought from KCPL and negotiations are underway on that utility’s rate to the city.

“If we don’t approve a rate increase, any deficits in the operating fund will have to come out of the money we have in the electric utility reserve,” said Dingman. “That can only last so long. If our reserves get depleted, we will be forced to do a rate increase. It makes more sense to do the needed increase now while we still have funds in reserve.

“We worked hard to build that reserve, which is needed in order to help ensure against downtime in the utility,” said Dingman. “We’ve come a long way in that regard.”

He said the proposed increase would cost the average residential customer using 750 kWh $8.85 per month. The increase wasn’t approved at Monday’s meeting, although the budget was, on a 4-1 vote, with Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr., voting against it.

The electrical hike will first go through the utility committee, headed by Brecheisen, then to the council for action, most likely at the next meeting. Baldwin School District Supt. Paul Dorathy attended Monday’s meeting, along with several school board members, because of concern about electrical matters. He said the 11.5 percent increase would cost the district between $27,000 and $60,000, depending on whether the city put it on a similar rate to Baker University, the largest electrical user, which is based on peak demand.

“I think they’ve got a lot of talking to do,” said Dorathy regarding the utility committee and city council. “It’s not a done deal. We’ll be one of the players in a pretty significant rate increase to meet that revenue.”

The school district is the second largest user of power in the city. If moved to a peak demand charge, there would need to be adjustments made, he said.

“I think what he’s talking about is moving us to a rate that puts us on a peak demand charge,” said Dorathy. “I think he’s still tweaking that. If we go to that, I think we’ll ask for some education on how to make that work. We can control our rate a little bit with that.”

Dingman said that’s what he’s still working on. The 11.5 percent hike is for residential customers, while businesses would be at 11 percent.

“One of the scenarios I’m working on for a rate proposal would involve moving the schools and some of the larger-use businesses to a demand-based rate structure similar to what Baker is on,” said Dingman. “It probably wouldn’t be the same rate as Baker, but would be a similar structure.”

The school district contingent was also at the meeting as a result of initially being told there would no longer be free utilities to the ball fields, as has happened since at least 1976. That would have amounted to $6,000 the district hadn’t budgeted for this year.

However, the council approved Dingman’s plan to go ahead with the $6,000 this year, but reduce it $1,250 per year for the next five years. Brecheisen wanted to amend that portion of the budget to $3,000 for the coming year and nothing after that, but was voted down again 4-1.

Brecheisen’s motion to amend was seconded by Council Member Robin Bayer. However, when the vote was made, only Brecheisen voted against it.

Electricity wasn’t the only bad news Monday. The council was also informed that Lawrence would again be raising its rates for water delivered to Baldwin City by as much as 43 cents per cubic foot of water. The rate has gone up each of the last three years. But, like the electricity, the water rate increase hasn’t been approved yet, either.

“I think we need to start looking for some alternatives,” said Mayor Ken Wagner. “I think it’s important that the public understand the rules we’re playing under.”

Comments

NanCrisp 5 years ago

Time for net metering, solar panels and -- most of all -- rooftop wind turbines. There is a better way to do this than to go down with the grid. There are better ways to get water, too.

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rateraiser 5 years ago

Are we going to keep paying for Wellsville's residents water also, or we going to raise their contracted rate to offset our costs????????????? WAFJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Stacy Napier 5 years ago

Sell the electric company to KCPL or Westar. City government has no business running an electric company anymore. The obviouslly can't do it efficiently.

We need to eliminate the middle man in both the power and the water. And that middle man is the City Government.

They are raping us. There is only one reason they won't sell the power company. Because they are making money. If it was losing deal they would dump it.

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pissedoff 5 years ago

Horse S! !!!!! Is this as creative as Dingman can get? Screw the townies? AS IF we dont pay enough already. S*%# my H20/elec.bill last month was over $575.00 It is time for NEW LEADERSHIP in this community!!!! McKenna is gone & thats a pretty great start! Use the slush fund!!!! A-hole thats what it's there for! In these economic times if you stick it to the public even harder you will force more people out of this town at a time that we should be growing. Sales tax while painfull will not sting as much as seeing an already inflated utility rate rise more. And how about some local "GREEN" tax incentives? HMMM Baker ever think of listening to Dr. Boyd? A nice big solar aray on top of a few of those campus buildings & you'de be the most progressive campus in the nation!

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Stacy Napier 5 years ago

What is ridiculous is that we already have the highest rate per KWh in the area and maybe the state. Something is wrong when we pay 11.5 cents or whatever our rate is and KCPL customers just outside the city limits pay only 8 cents or so. That just doesn't make good money sense.

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beevo 5 years ago

I was speaking to a Lawrence friend who works in real-estate. He referred to Baldwin City as “THE GOLDEN BALDWIN CITY“. I inquired as to what that description of Baldwin met. His response was. “IT TAKES A TON OF GOLD JUST TO LIVE THERE“. “That is one of the reasons we have problems selling homes in your community”. A “Ton of Gold” is right. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a Baldwin City Signal Newspaper headline that said, “City Officials Labor to Trim the City Budget?” It’s much easier for City Administrator Jeff Dingman and the Baldwin City Council to take, a large, electric rate increase than to work at lowering a bloated budget. An 11.5 percent increase in electrical rates is far easier action than to work at other solutions. Why should Dingman and the City Council work at cutting costs when the people of Baldwin City are such easy marks! Remember that these city government employees work for the citizens of Baldwin City. We don’t toil at our work just to support Dingman, and higher uncontrolled costs associated with this “so called” city government!

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b8es 5 years ago

Can't agree more with these comments. We should have sold the electrical system to KPL years ago, and never should have built that stinker of an electric plant. We've got to live with it now, though. The trouble is that if we want to really cut costs, we need to get rid of some employees. I bet we could get along just fine with about a third less people on the payroll.

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BaldwinDad 5 years ago

I think there is something seriously wrong here if we have to continue to pay more then the average for Utilities then any other community in the surrounding area.

I think even with the recent capital investments in the utility it's time to look at ridding ourselves of City owned Utilities.

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mommie2boogie 5 years ago

I would really like the city council to answer a question for me, how in the heck are people going to afford to pay that, when people are being laid off left and right? So our economy is tanking, and that helps cause prop values to drop...... so we wanna change more on electric to make up the difference......... We can barely afford what they are charging right now!!! So I guess I can tell my kids, sorry, no food today, Baldwin city wants to charge more for their electricity so mommy and daddy can't afford it.

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mommie2boogie 5 years ago

i wonder how many people will have to move because they simply cant afford it?

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sandman 5 years ago

Couldn't agree more mommie2boggie. You can tell your kids the same thing as you drop them off at the new school you probably voted for.

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mommie2boogie 5 years ago

i wasnt a resident here when that school was voted upon. apparently you are okay with paying more money when others are suffering?? or am i misinterpreting your comment

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NanCrisp 5 years ago

An impassioned parent once plead the case for the school bond issue on this forum by stating that we should give up smoking and that would pay for the tax increase we would see from the mill levy. (Nevermind the assumption that people even do smoke in the first place.) Assuming that mom is well on her way to kicking the habit so she can pay her real estate taxes, I'm wondering what she would suggest we all need to give up so we can afford the impending electricity rate hikes. And when water goes up (again), I'll be back to wondering what we need to give up next...

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BaldwinDad 5 years ago

The problem is just going to get worse since the more it costs to live here the less people and business will want to move here. Then people who can't afford to live here will start to move out, all of this will of course just keep causing there to be less and less taxes collected....pretty soon at the rate were going this town will just be a bunch of empty houses with a really nice big new school and an old utility plant.

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mommie2boogie 5 years ago

I grew up in baldwin, and graduated from BHS, however moved away for quite some time to joco and missouri. I am interested in starting a community group or a petition to get our voices heard on these issues, i just dont quite know the way to go about it. it seems that many of us feel this way. we should stand up and do what we can! feel free to email me at mommie2boogie at mchsi.com

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