With a $11.8M deficit, WG&L turns to rate, fee increases

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- To help close a $11.8 million funding gap created largely by increased fees from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and lower-than expected usage in nearly all of its departments, the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission voted Thursday to approve rate and fee increases to balance its FY 2012 budget.

The change will amount to a 5 percent increase for electric customers and 5 percent for water customers, Finance Director John Vansant, III, told the board.

WG&L is working to cope with a $9.2 million fee increase from MEAG, which passed down the 14 percent fee increase on its member utilities to pay for its portion of new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The FY 2012 budget also includes changes to the utilities rate and fee structure.

"We need to find nearly $12 million somewhere," Vansant told the commission.

Under the budget proposal that was presented Thursday, WG&L will extend its summer rates into May and October, and will boost fees for late payments, cut-offs, new customer hookups, and bad checks.

The increases will help cover the cost of the increased MEAG fee and will allow WG&L to make vehicle and equipment purchases they have been delaying for two years and give employees a 2 percent wage increase.

Even still, those measures will only get the utility to $8 million. To balance the budget, the board will have to use nearly all of the $3 million it receives annually for its participation in MEAG's trust program or dip into reserves.

In his presentation, Vansant showed a slide to the board comparing the rates of WG&L, MEAG and Georgia Power for electricity.

According to the Summer Residential Rate Surveys posted on the independent Georgia Public Service Commission's website, WG&L's rate tops out at 9.04 cents per kilowatt hour. Georgia Power tops out at 12.34 cents per kilowatt hour.

The Winter Residential Survey lists WG&L's rate being slightly higher at 9.42 cents per kilowatt hour and Georgia Power's rate at 12.28 cents per kilowatt hour.

Regardless of the disparity, people posting at albanyherald.com and on the Herald's Facebook page expressed agitation that, among other things, WG&L would be granting cost-of-living raises with a deficit budget.