March 6, 2013 10:30:58 AM
Thinks reserves should be used as a way to decrease utility rates
I have served as a commissioner for the Columbus Light and Water Utility Commission with four fellow commissioners for more than a year. I have enjoyed the experience immensely as well as learned a great deal from the wisdom of my fellow commissioners and the excellent leadership of our CEO, Todd Gale. Their leadership navigated the Department into safe financial condition in little time from very humble beginnings. Driving around with long-time utility workers, I have witnessed firsthand the improvements. Members of the department are proud and they deserve to be so.
Recently, the board has made several key decisions greatly affecting our communities. We have raised the customer charge, which disproportionately affects lower income people, for the electric rates despite the fact that we have $5 million in reserves (We also have the legal required reserves for TVA.). We have raised the water rates. We have begun mailing out late notices and charging our customers an additional $4 to remind them they are late. We are doing all of this while we have $5 million in reserves on top of the legally required reserves.
We have great books: Triple A rating. At one of our recent meetings, our TVA expert who we hired to analyze our rates compared to other municipalities, highlighted Tupelo as one of the top cities in several states for low rates. Look at the economic boom in Tupelo.
If lower rates work so well in other cities, why not give them a try in Columbus?
I am advocating to use some of the $5 million in reserves to lower the electric rates at least equal to the amount of the increase on the water rates. I believe lowering rates is similar to lowering taxes. Lower rates mean lower electric bills each month. It puts money in the hands of the citizens. What do you think?