For the first time, area residents can look forward to no rate increases during the upcoming year for their utilities.
The Board of Public Utilities brought its annual budget planning process to a close Friday at its monthly board meeting, unanimously approving budgets for the upcoming year in all five divisions with no increases for any service. This is the first year that all customer rates will remain at the same level as they were the previous year.
"The budgeting season is never fun," said David Leathers, general manager of the BPU. "It's always challenging, but I'm extremely pleased that we were able to get through this process for all five divisions and get to the point where the board could approve each of the five budgets with no rate increases for the coming year. Having that in place for 2013 is really a tremendous benefit for the services that we provide."
Leathers commended staff members who planned carefully and continued to work on developing more efficient methods of delivering services to customers.
"We are working very hard to contain costs in the face of the many challenges of maintaining and improving infrastructure in a difficult financial climate," said Leathers. "I think the two things that cut across all the budgets are the challenges with the economy and the rising cost of materials."
According to Leathers, any decline that occurs in the customer base of the BPU, whether it is due to population loss or business changes, causes consumption to go down. When consumption goes down, overall sales go down. Additionally, prices continue to increase in regards to many of the different items that the BPU deals with.
"We buy a lot of materials and commodities, we have personnel costs, health benefit costs, and retirement costs, and they all go up in price," said Leathers. "The challenge there is figuring out how to reduce several line items so that the increase in price and the decrease in need can offset each other. Doing that, in the end we have a manageable situation where the costs aren't just escalating."
John Zabrodsky, president of the BPU board of directors, expressed his appreciation to the staff for their efforts in keeping rates from rising in 2013.
"The BPU diligently analyzes budgets throughout the year and looks for ways to deliver services to our customers in the most economical way possible," noted Zabrodsky. "We are fortunate that our managers are actively engaged in this important process and, on behalf of the board, I thank them for their efforts."