The Independence City Council has painted itself into a tough spot. Electric ratepayers still don’t know for sure what future rates will be, and the study to guide the way still isn’t done.
There’s been general agreement that rates are too high, especially for commercial and industrial customers. The community badly needs more industrial development, but electric costs have been an obstacle for years.
But the council – despite warnings by Council Member Scott Roberson at the time – leaped before it looked. Late last year it approved a 2 percent across-the-board cut, despite the extensive and expensive cost-of-service study still being incomplete.
And it followed up with another 4 percent this spring – again, without the full study, though the preliminary version called 4 percent unsustainable as things soon at that time.
Superficially, that 6 percent sounds great, but these actions have short-circuited a more productive decision-making process. From the way City Hall is talking, it now appears 6 percent – and a promise to hold the line for four years – is as much as Independence Power & Light can afford.
And ratepayers continue to pay an outside consultant for a study that isn’t done, that has to be reconfigured every time the council makes a cut and scrambles the study’s underlying math.
What if what the community really needs for development is, let’s say, a 10 percent cut for industrial rates and only 4 percent for residential? Or 3 percent? And 10 or 12 overall rates instead of the current 22?
Well, we don’t know because the study – due last fall – remains in flux. The consultant’s meter on that study is still running.
And it’s too late. There’s talk of making adjustments within that overall 6 percent, but how does that work? There’s no way the council can go back on its recent steps.
The council seems unable to reach a consensus and a solid, easily explained plan. These are complex issues, and Power & Light has 101 moving parts, but part of the job of running a publicly owned utility is clear communication to the ratepayers of where we are and where we’re going.
Every ratepayer in this community deserves to see this study. Every ratepayer deserves to know why the council seems to have tied its own hands.