ALBANY ALBANY — Facing a loss of $2 million in revenues thanks to a mild winter, and a $16 million increase in fees it’s charged by the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia over the last two years, board members of the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission voted Thursday to raise electric rates by 10 percent effective March 1.
Finance Director John Vansant III, said Thursday that WG&L officials had hoped to avoid any kind of rate increase until at least the start of the new fiscal year July 1, but a mild winter has forced the timetable up, as the utility clamors to cover a coverage gap that has already cost them $4 million out of reserves.
“We knew we were going to have to have a 10 percent increase, but we were hoping that that we could put it off until July 1. But the incredibly mild weather has hit us hard and the Light Department fell extremely short of what we had budgeted,” Vansant said.
While milder winters and cooler summers are bliss for rate payers who can shut off their heaters and air conditioners, it’s a killer for a utility like WG&L who purchases electricity from MEAG in advance and then sees its revenues drop.
“You have ebbs and flows in the cash flow. But because sales have been so slow, that has been exacerbated,” Vansant said. “On a typical year, we’d spend $1.5 million. This year, we’ve had to spend $4 million.”
By increasing the rates, Vansant said the utility hopes to generate $9 million in additional revenue. That, added to the $4 million generated by a 5 percent increase last July, will get WG&L close to the $16 million fee figure.