Supervisors raise electricity rates |

Supervisors raise electricity rates

Amanda Hammon, Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City supervisors raised electric bills in Carson City by 1/2 percent this week.

While the anticipated increase will cost the average residential customer 37 cents a month, large manufacturers in the community will be facing additional costs in excess of $500 a month.

For example, Wyman-Gordan, manufacturer of stainless-steel aerospace parts, has an electric bill of about $50,000 a month, said Jim Nicosia, human resources manager. The 1/2 percent increase will cost the company an extra $3,000 a year.

“I cannot increase costs and taxes,” Nicosia said. “My ability to increase costs is exactly the opposite. Buyers are demanding and getting reductions in costs. Sales are the same, but what I can charge is diminishing. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see what happens.”

Supervisors approved 4-1 the increase as part of a renegotiation to Sierra Pacific’s franchise agreement. However, they switched the 2.5 percent franchise fee to a business license fee, which will allow the city to raise the fee 1 percent a year up to 5 percent.

Previously, the city had to wait for previously agreed upon negotiation periods with Sierra Pacific to raise the fee.

The fee is expected to generate an extra $250,000 per year for the city.

Mayor Ray Masayko voted against the fee increase.

City supervisors in March balanced their $45 million budget on $410,000 of anticipated hikes to electric, gas and water and sewer rates. Masayko says city leaders didn’t try hard enough to cut internal costs before raising utility fees.

Larry Osborne, chief executive officer of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce, argued against utility-fee increases in a time when “the economy isn’t robust and booming.”

“We’re not opening more businesses,” he said. “We also know there are businesses closing. It ain’t going to get any better.”

He urged city leaders to “tighten the belt” before continuing to look at increased fees and taxes.

In August, supervisors approved a 1 percent toll fee for water and sewer that will raise around $90,000 for the city’s general fund.

Other fee increases supervisors may consider include:

— a 1/2 percent increase in franchise fees for gas bills. In April, a Southwest Gas spokesmen said the direct, pass through tax would cost about 39 cents a month extra on each residential bill.

— a $3.43 a month fee to fund a $20 million storm drainage system. The charge will be higher — in some cases thousands of dollars higher — for commercial businesses with lots of buildings and asphalt in their parking lots.

— the city’s first sewer and water rate study in 12 years, which could lead to Carson’s first sewer-water rate hike in seven years. A committee is expected to have report on what the rate hike will cost in November.

Meanwhile, City Manager John Berkich ordered community development officials to hold off for 60 to 90 days before preparing for a potential increase of planning fees.

A review of Carson City’s planning fees shows the community development department only recoups $37,000 of the $865,000 it costs the department to process everything from special use permits to subdivision maps. A study of fee-related services shows Carson City taxpayer dollars subsidize a variety of development permits between 95 percent and 100 percent.