Council reviews power rates, fees at budget session

Published 6:47 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Washington’s City Council is considering adjusting the electric rate for industrial customers so they fairly share the burden of paying the city’s wholesale power cost.

The consideration began during the council’s budget session Tuesday night.

“The large general customers are not carrying their share of the weight,” Councilman Doug Mercer said. Mercer said the city’s residential power customers are using about 49 percent of “the energy that we sell” but generate 51 percent of the city’s income from electricity sales. “Conversely, the industrial customers are using 9.7 percent of the energy we sell, but they’re only generating 7.9 percent of the income,” he said. “That says, to me, that we are selling to them at or below cost.”

Mercer said his calculations show the city pays 10.9 cent a kilowatt-hour when it buys power at its wholesale rate from the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency. “We are selling it to our industrial customers at seven cents. So, we’re selling to them … at sevens cents and we’re paying 10 cents,” he said.

The city must address that discrepancy, Mercer noted.

“We need to adjust the industrial rates so they’re at least equal to our cost,” Mercer said.

The council agreed the city needs to increase its rate-stabilization fund regularly to provide revenue to offset future increases in the wholesale rate the city pays for power. Doing so would minimize possible retail rate increases in the future, according to city officials.

The proposed budget keeps power rates at their current levels.

The council also discussed adjusting recommended fee increases in City Manager Bobby Roberson’s proposed $75 million, overall budget. That budget calls for half-percent increase in water rates and a 2-percent increase in sewer rates for the upcoming fiscal year. The increases are needed to provide for the operation and maintenance of those services, according to Roberson. Under the proposed budget, electric rates would not increase during the fiscal year. The city’s stormwater fees would increase by 50 cents monthly for each residential customer, with commercial customers seeing their monthly charges increase by 50 percent, according to the proposed budget. The increases in the stormwater fees would be used to pay for more drainage improvements in the city.

The council discussed possibly increasing the monthly residential stormwater fee to $1 and decreasing the proposed fee increase for commercial customers. City staff was instructed to determine how the proposed changes would affect the proposed budget.

The proposed budget calls for increasing the property-tax rate from 50 cents per $100 valuation to 52 cents, which would increase the annual tax on a house valued at $100,000 from $500 to $520.




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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