Utility rates to increase

Published 5:14 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The City of LaGrange’s utility rates are expected to remain among the lowest in the state, but customers can expect to see an increase in cost in the next year.

The LaGrange City Council discussed proposed increases to electric rates by 2.9 percent overall and gas rates of 2.4 percent during its budget review on Tuesday.  The increase for electrical cost breaks down to a 3.3 percent increase for residential and general service customers and a 2.5 percent increase for commercial and industrial customers.

“We still will remain below our competition,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said.

“Why are we below our competition? For one, because we are very efficient. We run a very lean operation when you look at personnel that we have working for us. We have lower infrastructure spending in terms of metering, maintenance and the facilities, and we are very good at resource planning decisions to make sure that we are doing the right things long-term.”

A large portion of the City of LaGrange budget revolves around utilities, with 86 percent of city revenue from utility charges and 49 percent of expenses dedicated to utility purchases and supplies.

The City of LaGrange does not receive revenue from property taxes, and officials said that utility rates will need to increase to meet the city’s growing needs.

“On one hand, we are operating a governmental enterprise,” Kelsey said.

“We have public safety. We have streets. We do courts and probation, animal services, trash, recycling, landscape, community development and economic development. Then we have the internal services that have to support all of that, and as you can see, over the years that has increased.”

She said that utility rates will have to increase to account for that rise in cost.

According to information released during the meeting, general fund expenses have increased by 25 percent since 2013.

Increased personnel — including firefighters to man the new fire station and workers to fill positions formerly filled by Troup County Correctional Institute inmates — and new city services — like the new fire station and The Thread — have contributed to a significant portion of that increase.

The city is also looking to cover a $600,000 increase in cost from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and perform necessary maintenance on utility systems with the increase.

According to information released in the meeting, the increase for electricity will likely result in about $3.07 more a month for the average bill of residential customers and about $5.96 on average for general service customers.

Commercial electric rate increases will vary more depending on the size of the companies, but city electricity rates should remain below Diverse Power and Georgia Power Company in all areas.

“We don’t really have any room to raise industrial or large commercial rates without getting into some issues with competitiveness on incentive rates,” Utilities Director Patrick Bowie said.

Gas rate increases will increase by 4.5 percent for residential and general service customers, .5 percent for large firms and .3 percent for interruptible.

Kelsey estimated that based off of average use, that will mean a $2.44 a month increase on gas cost for residential customers and $123.52 a month for commercial customers.

Liberty Utilities may have lower rates for on gas for commercial customers following the increase, according to rate charts released by the city.