AUSTIN (KXAN) - It has been 18 years since Austin has seen a hike, but its energy rate is about to go up. After months of disagreement on an amount, KXAN has obtained what could be the last proposal before a likely City Council vote on June 7.
It is a preliminary document, but city sources confirmed it comes from three Austin City Council members – Bill Spelman, Chris Riley and Sheryl Cole. They will release a final plan on Monday.
So far, it aims to bring in $71 million of revenue in the first phase, which would cover Austin Energy's current deficit. After that – probably around 2015 or 2016 – an additional goal of $25 million would be tacked on to add to the utility's reserves.
Consumer advocate Paul Robbins said the new proposed plan still gives Austin Energy too much money -- that it could function with less. He and a group made up of representatives from entities like the Sierra Club, Texas Legal Services, Data Foundry, and Homeowners United for Rate Fairness recently submitted their own consumer structure to the Council. He estimates the following for the average user:
- New council proposal: $10.73 extra per month ($128 per year)
- Consumer proposal (31 percent reduction): $7.38 extra per month ($88.52 per year)
For residential customers under the new Council proposal, the rate structure would have five tiers. The top 10 percent of customers -- those who own big homes and use a lot of energy -- would pay the most. The bottom 10 percent -- those who have small apartments and use the least amount of energy -- would pay the least.
This new proposal moves your fixed rate -- the amount you pay no matter how much you use -- to $10, lower than Austin Energy's original proposal of $22.
"We're please, but not satisfied," Robbins said. "That is higher than any large municipal utility in Texas."
Texas Cities' Fixed Residential Rates:
- Austin (Current - $6)
- Austin (New Council Proposal - $10)
- San Marcos ($8.93)
- Bryan ($8.88)
- San Antonio ($8.25)
- Denton ($8.25)
- College Station ($7)
But the new proposal does include some compromises for some of the concerned groups throughout this process:
- Houses of worship would all move to commercial class, capping the maximum total bill at 12.5 cents/kWh (more detailed study at Phase 2)
- Schools would get a 10 percent discount on their total bill
- Out-of-town customers could have a voice within Austin Energy (Spelman, Riley and Cole will bring a resolution on June 7 to investigate options for new governance structures with report back within 90 days)
"There are three people for this proposal and probably three people against it," Robbins questioned. "Where does the mayor fall?"
This plan stands out compared to earlier plans, because it was prepared after the city received an auditor's report on Austin Energy's finances to know exactly where the utility stands.
Austin Energy told KXAN it will work with anything the Council gives them but also hopes they do it in a way that allows rate adjustment for customers.
The judge presiding over the trial to oust District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg ruled Wednesday that she'll stay in office.
Mack Brown’s longtime friend and attorney said Wednesday that the veteran coach of the Longhorns has not yet made a decision on his future, but that it will come soon.
The Austin City Council will take up billing errors and problems with the appeals process at Austin Energy during Thursday's meeting.
Options for high speed Internet in Austin continue to expand. Google Fiber is coming to Austin soon, and now AT&T has announced the city will be the first for its own faster-than-ever Internet speeds.
A 15-year-old girl told police she was abducted from the parking lot at Bastrop High School on Wednesday.
After hundreds of park-goers complained about a lack of off-leash dog space in the new design of Auditorium Shores, the Austin Parks and Recreation Board is hoping a compromise will alleviate any concerns.