WHAT WE KNOW: Aldermen endorsed a six-month budget plan assuming a 40% decrease in sales taxes at a special June 12 meeting.
WHAT'S NEW: The committee of the whole on Tuesday voted 8-0 to recommend the full council adopt the six-month budget, dipping into reserves to balance the budget. City administrator Jo Hollenkamp noted after the meeting that the two unions had agreed in recent negotiations to forgo a 3.5% pay hike in favor of a 2% increase this July and another 2% hike in July of 2021. The unions also agreed to have their members take 10 furlough days within 18 months. Hollenkamp said she believed those concessions would preclude the need for any layoffs.
WHAT'S NEXT: Aldermen at the meeting also voted 8-0 to recommend an increase in the monthly electric charge of $15 and the kilowatt usage charge by 5%. The kilowatt/hour rate would rise from 11 cents to 12.3 cents and the minimum monthly bill for zero kilowatt hours would go from $10 to $25. The rate increase is projected to create $2 million in reserves in the department within five years, a sum Hollenkamp said is necessary in case of damages from a tornado or ice storm. It's projected to add total revenue of $1,007,833 per year if average usage is reached. The last increase in electric rates was in 2006 with the exception of the elimination of winter rates in 2010. Electric department superintendent Eric Rowold went through figures showing the department's revenue as well as cash and cash equivalent numbers which have fallen since 2016. He said capital needs may include 289 utility poles between Geneseo and Colona connecting the city to MidAmerican Energy that cost between $8,000 and $10,000 each. A drone will be used to assess the poles' condition. Other needs are substations installed in 1970 and the oldest unit in the power plant installed in 1960. Rowold said his department stopped all capital projects last November, realizing they were not going to hit revenue projections. He also said he would come back in the future to request a purchase power adjustment rate which would protect the utility from any skyrocketing charge from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).Mayor Sean Johnson stressed the electric department has physical needs. "We can't continue zero capital improvement for very long. If we don't (raise revenue), we're back to borrowing and bonding every time we have to do maintenance." The electric rates will come before the regular council meeting on July 14.
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