Council discusses utility discount for elderly citizens

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, July 26, 2018

The LaGrange City Council considered updates to its current utility discounts for elderly citizens during its Tuesday work session. 

The updates were first proposed by Council Member Jim Arrington on June 26, following the council’s vote to raise electricity and gas service rates. The impact of the rate increase on elderly citizens on limited income was discussed at length by the council in work sessions prior to the vote.

“The net effect of that would be offsetting the increase for the elderly who meet the income guidelines,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “The increase in the electric and the gas that was passed last month would not affect the elderly customers [on limited income].”

No decision was made on Tuesday, but the council did discuss how much to increase discounts to elderly citizens on limited income, who qualifies and what the increase would mean for the city budget. 

“As you know, the average rate of our increase was $3 [per month for electricity],” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “I think from a staff perspective, if council wants to help senior citizens with this rate increase, we would recommend doing $3, so going from $8 to $11 per month. This would annually cost you about $26,000. On the gas side, we would recommend going up $2.45 to $6.30. It would cost you about $17,000 a year on that.”

Kelsey did not recommend a change to the water or sanitation. According to Kelsey’s presentation, 726 people currently use the electricity discount, 603 for gas and 771 for water. 

“The last time we modified the discount was in April of 2006,” Kelsey said. “We had a rate increase at that time, and the council elected to change that.”

City staff was directed by the council to draft an ordinance that would lay out the changes to the discount program.

“I’m in favor of this,” Arrington said. “I think we need to take care of our elderly people. That is one thing that we should be looking at. We went up on rates, and this right here will keep them out of it.”

Council Member Nathan Gaskin suggested the council also ask that participants in the program be automatically enrolled in the recycling program in order to boost that program’s participation rate. It was unclear if the proposal would be part of the updated ordinance on Tuesday.

For details on qualifying for the program, call LaGrange Utilities.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.