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Glendale Council approves rate increases

After five years, electricity will cost 29% more for residential customers.

August 13, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com | By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Glendale Water & Power (File Photo)
Glendale Water & Power (File Photo)

In a 3-2 vote, the City Council on Tuesday night approved five years of electricity rate increases through 2018. When compounded, the increases equate to a 29% hike for Glendale's residents.

The rate increases came after several public meetings about the dire financial state of Glendale Water & Power — officials have said it would have become insolvent by 2017 without increasing rates — and a barrage of criticism from customers, who pleaded last week at a council meeting for smaller increases.

But the complaints didn't deter Mayor Dave Weaver, Councilman Ara Najarian and Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who voted in favor of the increases.

"It's my duty as a City Councilman to make sure we have a viable electrical utility," said Najarian. "I see this as the only way to do it. I know it hurts, but I see no alternative."

The approved changes are to begin in 31 days, with an average 8% increase this year, followed by 7%, 5%, 2% and 2% in ensuing consecutive years. The compounded increase would be 29.1% for residential customers, 25.9% for commercial customers and 22.9% for small commercial customers, according to a city report.

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Councilman Frank Quintero disagreed with Najarian, noting that he believed five years of 4% increases would be sufficient to fund necessary capital improvements and keep GWP running.

"That's not a small amount of money. That is a big, big increase," Quintero said.

But City Manager Scott Ochoa said Quintero's suggestion wouldn't get the utility to positive income and would set reserves at $15 million in 2018, far below a $124 million floor set by a 2006 council vote. 

Despite this rise in rates, there may be more to come for utility customers. The utility may ratchet up rates more in the future, albeit on a smaller scale of 1% to 2%, officials have said.

Under the approved plan, an average single-family homeowner who pays $103.15 monthly now would see rates increase by $9.16 to $122.31 next fiscal year and then an additional $21.38 through 2018 to $133.69.

The new rates include "adjustment charges" that could boost electricity bills if new state environmental rules drive the utility's costs up or sales volumes fall below projection.

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