The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities electric and water budgets for next year have been approved.
On Monday, the BPU board passed both budgets, with no increase in electric rates and a 2.5 percent rate increase for the water division. The water increase is 5 cents per a unit of water, which will cost the average residential customer around 35 cents a month more, said BPU officials. That would be a $4.20 rate increase for the whole year. The BPU has five utility divisions district heat, electric, solid waste, wastewater and water. Water is the only division with a rate increase for 2014.
Like the past few BPU board meetings, the group discussed the revenue sharing to the city's general fund. Prior to voting on the electric budget, Fred Larson, BPU board member, motioned for an amendment to put a placeholder amount in the budget for next year for money going toward the city's general fund. Larson said the possible payment to the city should be a planned part of the BPU's electric budget with a placeholder in the spending plan.
From left in the center, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi and Dr. Len Faulk, Jamestown Board of Public Utilities board member, with the rest of the BPU board during Faulk’s last meeting as a member of the group. Faulk has decided to not have his four-year term on the board extended at the beginning of next year so he can spend more time with his family.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
''There is a zero in the budget to the city,'' he said about the electric budget prior to his amendment. ''To have a zero is misleading.''
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said he agreed with the suggestion. He said it is too early to tell how much might be going to the city next year, but will be an issue the board will be discussing.
Gregory Rabb, BPU board member and Jamestown City Council president, said it should be in the budget so there is no surprise when it could be asked for again by city officials next year.
''Anticipate the request in the fall,'' he said.
Board members said by having it in the budget, it will get the conversation started on making a policy on how to share profits from the utility to the city. The profit sharing toward the city's general fund has happened for the last two years for the first time in several decades. The board approved earlier this month to appropriate $475,000 from electric revenues in 2013 toward the city's general fund in 2014. In 2012, the BPU board appropriated $420,000 to the city from both the electric and water profits.
During the discussions on whether BPU revenue should go toward the city, the group has also discussed forming a policy to go by each year. The group has yet to pass a policy. Carl Pillittieri, BPU board member, said lacking a policy, he doesn't like the idea of placing an amount in the 2014 electric budget as a possible payment toward the city's general fund in 2015 when the number is still unknown, and won't be know until the end of next year. David Leathers, BPU general manager, said he too would be concern about making this decision so far in advance. Leathers said the placeholder amount would be arbitrary and a dangerous move to make.
The board voted 6-3 to amend the placeholder amount of $474,203 in the 2014 electric budget as a possible payment to the city's general fund in 2015. Pillittieri, Wayne Rishell and John Zabrodsky voted against the amendment.
Prior to voting on the 2014 electric budget, Teresi discussed some more information about the sharing of BPU revenues to the city's general fund. The mayor said the BPU made a $1.3 million payment toward the Jamestown Public School District as a payment in lieu of taxes next year. This is something the BPU has done since 1995, with more than $22 million going toward the school district. He said he believes Jamestown is the only municipality that shares revenues from its utility with its school district.
''We don't have to make it, but we do,'' he said.
Teresi said city taxpayers are also on the hook if the BPU would happen to lose money, not customers who live on the outside of the city who have access to BPU utilities.
''The taxpayers of the city make the sacrifice and shoulder all the burden of risk,'' Teresi said.