By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — If money is tight, prepare to squeeze your pockets a bit tighter — a local utility company has requested a rate increase that will cost consumers a bit more next year.
The rate increase request was filed before the Kentucky Public Service commission by Jackson Energy, which serves the majority of electricity and also supplies propane to county residents. If approved, the rate increase would go into effect around March 2014.
The McKee-based utility is asking for the rate increase for the years of 2014, 2015, and 2016 and will increase the average usage bill by 1.5 percent per month, or a 4.5 percent increase over a three-year period.
With rising costs of all commodities and utilities, Jackson Energy made its request to compensate for rising costs of fuel and equipment.
“Our employees and management have worked to trim our operating budget,” said Carol Wright, president and CEO of Jackson Energy. “But our reductions haven’t been enough to keep up with the five-year inflation rate of 8.5 percent.”
Despite trimming the number of vehicles in its fleet, cutting operating expenses, and using technology to streamline the day-to-day operations, the business continues to have more outgoing payments than incoming cash flow. The last rate increase occurred in 2008 and since that time, operating expenses that includes fuel for trucks and material costs have continued to rise.
The request filed before the Kentucky Public Service commission asks for the increase to be phased in over three years, giving consumers time to adjust to having to pay more for their service.
“For example, the flat rate will increase $2 per year for residential customers and will not affect the per kilowatt hour charge that is based on how much electricity they use each month,” said Wright.
Jackson Energy advocates energy conservation and offers several rebate programs to reward customers for using less electricity.
“These can help pay for adding extra insulation and other improvements that will help our members use less electricity,” she added.
With more than 51,000 customers in seven counties, most of which are rural areas, Jackson Energy often has higher maintenance costs than cooperatives that serve larger cities and towns.
The review of the rate hike is expected to take approximately six months.