It appears that Penticton’s electricity rates will go up by 5.3 per cent April 1.
City council unanimously endorsed the change Monday evening, mirroring the wholesale increase the city’s power supplier, FortisBC, is expected to implement also on April 1.
If approved, it will be the second time this year — and one of many in its tenure — that council has decided to implement a revenue-neutral increase instead of a retail rate increase, which in this instance would have brought a six per cent jump.
The difference, estimated city chief financial officer Doug Leahy, will amount to about $145,000 in uncollected profits the city could have added to its electric utilities reserves used to fund infrastructure maintenance, upgrades or expansion. Every year $300,000 is also transferred from the fund to the city’s general capital budget for capital projects.
Leahy had recommended the retail rate increase, however, Coun. John Vassilaki asserted the increase should be as small as is prudent.
“The economy is in such bad shape that we have to give the taxpayers a break, or as much of a break as we can,” Vassilaki said. “These increases are just getting out of hand and the provincial government isn’t going to do anything about it. We should help out a little bit.”
Coun. Andrew Jakubeit suggested council go with a 5.5 per cent increase to “start building up some reserves.”
“Profit isn’t a dirty word, so I think we need to start including that in our cost structures,” he said.
There will be a public input session regarding the new rate March 7 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.