La Plata Electric Association’s board voted this week to increase the co-op’s revenue by $3 million in 2020, a decision expected to increase rates in April.
The revenue increase is needed to update LPEA’s aging electricity infrastructure, improve customer service and support, and prepare for the future of the electric grid, according to a news release. The revenue increase is also needed to prevent a deficit and provide a $700,000 cushion to cover unforeseen circumstances, according to the board’s Wednesday discussion.
The board voted 8-2 to approve the revenue increase. Board members Davin Montoya and Jack Turner voted against increasing revenue. Board member Kohler McInnis abstained and Kirsten Skeehan was not present.
“Even after cutting nearly a million dollars from the budget in various areas, this increase was needed to meet the rising costs of providing electricity,” said Board President Bob Lynch, in a statement. “LPEA runs a very tight ship and any increase in rates only occurs when absolutely necessary to maintain the standards of service members expect of us.”
The co-op’s rates have not gone up since 2016.
LPEA CEO Jessica Matlock said she could not say how much more residents and businesses might pay for electricity as a result of the vote. Options for rate increases are expected to be discussed in January, the release said.
LPEA would not need another rate increase for another two to three years after the one expected in April, if the co-op does not pursue investments in solar development and other programs, Matlock said.
However, the co-op would like to start working on renewable energy projects and other improvements, she said.
Montoya said he felt the budget was inflated and a rate increase would hurt those who can’t currently afford their bills.
“I think we have got a spending problem,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the absence of an operating budget in the board’s packet for the board to review during the meeting. The board reviewed the operating budget in November, Matlock said.
Skeehan was not present to vote, but she was listening in by phone and encouraged the board to approve a $2.3 million revenue increase to cover the projected deficit and not provide a financial cushion.
“I would rather leave people’s money in their pocket,” she said.