Without a single comment or question, the Glendale City Council this week unanimously approved spending roughly $71,000 on a study that will lay the groundwork for a proposed electric rate increase.
The council doesn't expect to vote on the issue until after the April election, in which three council seats are up for grabs.
In July, Glendale Water & Power officials set out on a series of public meetings about possible electricity rate increases as they explored a way to bolster the struggling utility's weak financial position. At the time, officials said they sought a 14.7% rate hike over four years, starting with a 3% bump in 2013. That was a drop from a previous proposal that would have doubled the first year's rate increase.
The rate increases are needed to pay for badly needed infrastructure projects and to maintain good standing with credit rating agencies, officials said.
In March, the City Council approved four years of water rate increases, which will affect customers differently depending on how much water they use and the size of their meters. And in November, the council approved $35 million in water bonds.
Officials plan to use the water rate increases to pay back about $23 million that was borrowed from the electricity side to pay for big infrastructure projects.
According to a city report, the new electricity rates should encourage energy conservation, much like the new water rates, which go up exponentially for high users. They must also cover costs notwithstanding changes in consumption levels.
When Glendale water use dropped in 2009 and 2010 due to mandatory water conservation, so did revenues. To prevent that from happening in the future, the new water rates include a higher charge for each meter — one that increases with size. That component angered many residents upset about being charged even if they didn't use any water.