In previous conversations about the issue, city leaders essentially viewed that as free money. After a 2004 audit showing that the Department of Transportation, which manages the system, had failed to follow through on planned rate increases, Comptroller Joan Pratt lamented "how much money we lost," and then City Council President Sheila Dixon referred to rate increases as a way to avoid increasing taxes. But as BGE has made clear every time the city has talked about raising the rates, whether by a few cents per linear foot of wires as in the past or by a doubling or tripling of rates, as is under discussion now, those costs can be passed on to electric ratepayers. As a regulated utility, BGE has the right to recoup its costs plus a reasonable rate of return. The Public Service Commission would have to approve any increase, but the company could certainly make a strong case that it deserved to recoup costs over which it had no control. The company says Baltimore customers could see bills as much as $8 higher per month — the equivalent of its last four rate increases put together.