The average household would pay $5.35 more each month for electricity under the proposed Franklin PUD rate increase, according to district officials.
The Franklin Public Utility District Commission agreed at its Tuesday meeting to hold three public hearings to present information on the proposal and hear from ratepayers.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed increase March 28 after considering the public comments.
The hearings are from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 15 and 16 at the Franklin PUD auditorium, 1411 W. Clark St., Pasco. A hearing also is planned from noon to 1 p.m. March 14 at Michael Jay’s Restaurant, 710 S. Columbia Ave., Connell.
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The proposed rate change would increase charges 4.1 percent for all rate classes, including residential, industrial and irrigation.
If commissioners approve the increase, rates would go up starting May 1.
We understand no one likes rate increases.
Tim Nies, Franklin PUD general manager
The proposed increase was planned to start after the winter heating season ended and before the start of the summer air conditioning season.
The basic monthly charge for electrical service to residential users of $34 would remain the same, with an increase in the charge per kilowatt-hour used from 0.0635 to 0.0673 for an average overall increase of 4.1 percent.
The projected average increase of $5.35 per month is based on the use of 1,400 kilowatt-hours per month.
“We understand no one likes rate increases,” said Tim Nies, PUD general manager.
But buying wholesale electricity accounts for 70 percent of the PUD’s budget, and costs of purchasing power keep increasing, he said.
The PUD gets about 90 percent of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration, which has been raising rates every other year, PUD officials said.
The PUD last raised household rates about 2.6 percent in September 2015, a month ahead of a 5.5 percent wholesale rate increase from BPA.
The PUD did not raise rates in 2016, but expects to have to cover another wholesale rate increase this fall from BPA that could be similar to the fall 2015 increase.
Franklin PUD will continue to tell the BPA that such cost increases are not sustainable, said PUD Commissioner Roger Wright.
Franklin PUD has several programs available to help ratepayers, from free energy audits to discount programs for low income seniors and the disabled.
The proposal to raise rates comes toward the end of an unusually cold winter that has caused many residents to use more electricity to heat their homes.
The Franklin PUD offers several programs to help its ratepayers.
Low-income seniors and disabled customers are eligible for a discount of 15 percent to 30 percent. The PUD also has a Helping Hands program, in which customers can donate to a program for those in need that is administered by the Benton Franklin Community Action Connections.
A budget payment plan is available that averages 12 months of electric bills to allow customers to pay about the same amount every month, smoothing out payments among months with high and low electricity use.
Free energy audits are available and each fall a workshop is offered with tips on preparing buildings for cold temperatures.