San Antonio City Council, following a two hour debate, voted 8-2 this morning to approve a 4.25% rate increase for CPS Energy customers, which will take effect in February.
1200 WOAI news reports that Councilman Carlton Soules, who represents northeast side District 10, and Rebecca Villagran, who represents southeast side District 3, voted against the rate increase.
Debate was lively, with opponents like Bob Martin of the Homeowner Taxpayer Association saying that the biggest problems facing low income people and senior citizens these days is government.
"The middle class and seniors on fixed incomes are under attack," Martin said. "By who? By their very own government."
Several council members expressed concerns about the operations of CPS Energy, and Doyle Beneby, the CEO of the utility, said he has heard those concerns.
"These include our bonus and payout levels, and questions about whether our residential rates are subsidizing industrial and commercial rates," Beneby said.
One interesting proposal came up during the debate. Several City Council members said they will push for a single bill which will include fees for all of the utilities that citizens pay, CPS Energy, SAWS, the garbage collection.
Beneby said the rate hike will not be the last. He says CPS Energy expects to request rate increases in 2015 and 2018. He also said the utility is moving aggressively to diversify its fuel portfolio to renewables like wind and solar, and said that will benefit residential customers by allowing CPS Energy to avoid the expense of meeting planned federal environmental standards. He pointed out that the decommissioning of CPS Energy's Deely power station in itself will save rate payers some $600 million in the costs of coal scrubbing equipment. The vote means a windfall for the city of San Antonio.
Since the city owners CPS Energy, the vote today will mean an extra $5.5 million a year for the city, essentially making this a tax increase.