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Utility bills may soar for 2 1/2 years

Staff writer

Hillsboro electric customers will likely see their household electric bills go up 8.4% — an average of $15.33 a month — for the next 24 to 30 months.

The increase, motivated by the same factors that could increase bills in Marion, too, will be decided at a city council meeting April 6.

City administrator Matt Stiles told city councilmen Tuesday that the rate increase would be necessary to offset a dramatic spike in energy prices during February’s subzero temperatures and a resulting surcharge imposed by the city’s electricity provider.

Kansas Power Pool experienced costs of $4 million in February to operate its own electric generating facility. That compares to $3 million in all of 2020. It also declared an emergency last month and rationed electricity.

Last week, KPP’s board of directors imposed a $0.01 surcharge per kilowatt-hour to rebuild cash reserves it used to defray February’s costs. The surcharge will remain in place 24 to 30 months.

It charged Hillsboro $.00166 a kWh for February electricity. Without the surcharge, it would have been .0066 a kWh.

KPP’s charge to the city for February was $19,400 higher than it would have been without the $.01 surcharge.

The city charges its customers a flat rate of $.1195 per kWh.

Hillsboro mayor Lou Thurston said KPP rates vary from one month to the next depending on the amount of energy used.

“We’ve got the bill coming from KPP, and as you know we had a pretty massive stretch of bad weather there,” Stiles said. “The big deal is that we had this rush on natural gas, and we were getting pretty short.”

Stiles said the city has enough money to pay this month’s $19,400-larger bill, but the surcharge needs to be passed along to the city’s customers in future months.

Stiles said if KPP had not used its cash reserves for February’s costs, it would have had to adjust the city’s electric rates 25 cents per kWh.

Hillsboro customers now pay $.1195 a kWh plus $12.10 a month base charge. With the added surcharge, they would pay $.1295 a kWh plus $12.10 a month base charge. The change would amount to an average increase of 8.4%.

An ordinance to impose the surcharge will be ready for the council’s vote at the April 6 meeting.

Stiles said the surcharge would be shown separately on customers’ electric bills and will sunset after KPP’s repayment period.

Mask ordinance to expire next week

With dropping rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and the rollout of vaccinations against the virus, Hillsboro city councilmen agreed to let the city’s mask ordinance expire next week.

Councilman Byron McCarty said with the city’s earlier proclamation supporting masks still in place, maybe the mandate is no longer needed.

Brent Driggers said if the state mandate is not renewed at the end of the month, he’s OK with letting the city mandate expire.

“I think we could let ours expire unless the state renews theirs,” Driggers said. “Frankly, I like ours better.”

Last modified March 17, 2021

 

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