That from Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, who was a guest on this week’s WRFA Community Matters program. During the half-hour discussion with public affairs director Jason Sample, the mayor – who also serves as the president of the BPU – explained why he supported the rate increase, which, after much discussion and a couple of delays, was eventually approved by the board and sent to the state Public Service Commission for its consideration.
“It was not an easy decision to make. I don’t like raising rates on anything – whether it’s tax rates, or fees or electric charges or water rates – but at times you do need to make the adjustment and a 2.5 percent increase, after five straight years of no increase, I think it was a reasonable thing to do,” Teresi said, adding, “And after three delays in the process of voting on it I ultimately did – kind of reservedly and reluctantly – vote yes.”
Last month the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier came out against the proposed rate increase, calling it a hidden tax that is being forced on utility customers – many of whom live outside of Jamestown – to help pay for operating city government. This is due to the BPU giving the city more than $1.25 million in electric division profits during the past three years.
Teresi, however, disagrees with this point, saying the numbers simply don’t add up.
“If this was a case that the dividend payment back to the owners of the utility – the city of Jamestown – was solely driving the increase, I guess there would be a point,” Teresi told WRFA. “But I think that that was pretty firmly established through the words of [BPU General Manager] David Leathers and other folks during the review process that there was not a direct cause and effect relationship there.”
According to officials with the BPU, the rate increase would equal an average increase of $2 a month for electric customers, but would result in about $1.2 million of additional revenue for the BPU on an annual basis. Part of the reason for the increase request includes lower retail electric sales, higher labor costs, and improvements needed for the BPU plant.
The PSC is currently holding a public input period on the proposed rate increase before it makes a decision on whether or it will allow the rate hike to take place.
Anyone wishing to weigh in on the issue can either:
- Write the New York State Public Service Commission at Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3, Albany, NY 12223-1350;
- Call 1-800-335-2120;
- Post comments online on the PSC website.
In all cases, please reference the case number: 15-E-0184.
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