What to do with rising utilities

Published 7:56 pm Friday, June 29, 2018

Utility rates in both LaGrange and Hogansville are on the rise. However, the cities voted to move forward with the rate changes due to very different reasons. 

The LaGrange City Council voted 5-1 on Tuesday night to move forward with the rate increase. The increase will help pay for repairs and upgrades to the current utility system. This decision will also allow the city to avoid charging a property tax to city residents. The decision, as expected, was met with disgust on social media, as dozens of people commented about their past bills and the perceived lack of awareness for community members living off of social security.

Nobody likes to pay more on their utility bills — us included — but LaGrange continues to rank below the state average in utility costs. In the Georgia Public Service Commission’s most recent survey for winter, LaGrange was below the state average per 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 kilowatt hours.

For example, per 2,000 kilowatt hours, LaGrange’s cost was $176.15, well below the state average of $217.88.

The PSC measures providers in both winter and summer each year, and the ranking fluctuates quite a bit from year to year for each city. However, even in summer, LaGrange was below the state average, while being ranked near the middle of the state for all providers listed (54th).

The electricity increase is expected to cost the average home an additional $3.07 per month and general service customers $5.96 per month. The gas rate increase will cost residential customers an average of $2.44 more per month and commercial customers an estimated $123.52 per month.

Even with those changes, LaGrange is likely to stay below the state average in utility cost. 

In Hogansville, rates for both winter and summer came in above the state average, and the latest increase will only add to that difference. Under the increase, total water rates were adjusted from $6.35/thousand gallons to $11.35, while total wastewater rates were adjusted from $9.93/thousand gallons to $21.96.

Like LaGrange’s council, the Hogansville council did not want to vote to increase rates but didn’t have much choice. As City Manager David Milliron put it, they were “boxed in” due to the city’s debt and the wastewater treatment plant the city is obligated to build.

While we understand the need for the increase in rates in both cities, we encourage council members to look for ways to lower the burden for those who may not be able to afford higher utility bills. This would include seniors, who often are living off of a fixed income, where even a few dollars a month may make a difference. The LaGrange City Council has already taken the first step in that direction with a unanimous vote to review the city’s senior discount program at its next meeting.

We also encourage residents to look for ways to decrease utility rates in their own homes. Easy ways to do this are to set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer. You can also improve your house’s insulation or just close curtains and blinds to keep the sun out.