The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities on Dec. 21 approved a 2017 budget of $328 million, about $113 million less than the 2016 budget.
It is a reduction of more than 20 percent. According to a BPU spokesman, the decreased budget is mainly the result of lower capital expenditures related to environmental projects addressing state and federal environmental mandates and maintaining existing staffing levels.
The 2017 budget reflects the lack of a big capital improvement expenditure. According to David Mehlhaff, BPU spokesman, during 2017 there will not be a big major capital improvement, as BPU had with the Nearman plant in 2016. The Nearman improvement project was finished on time and under budget, he added. There are still smaller capital improvement projects in the 2017 budget, just nothing of the scale of the Nearman improvement, he said.
The budget was adopted following a series of public budget hearings during the month of December.
The lower budget for 2017 may not have an effect on residential or other BPU rates.
The BPU hasn’t had a rate increase in three years, and a rate hearing is scheduled in the fourth week of January, Mehlhaff said.
There is a proposed 4 percent electric rate hike for 2017, according to a BPU legal notice. The BPU has published a legal notice that stated it will have a public hearing on a rate increase at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the BPU board room, 540 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan. The public hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Jan. 25 at the same location. Testimony is scheduled on the technical aspects after the 9 a.m. Jan. 25 public hearing, according to the public notice. According to the public notice, the BPU board will not make a decision on the proposed rate hike until after the public hearing. The charges that individual BPU customers experience may vary from the annual 4 percent average amount that is proposed, according to BPU’s public notice.
Mehlhaff said rate proposals are determined by a cost-of-service study, the rate hearing process testimony, community comments and then the board makes its decision.
The BPU has a goal of completing the rate hearing process by March 1, according to officials.
In the budget, BPU officials set priorities for 2017, including developing and maintaining and stable financial position while using industry best practices, according to the spokesman.
BPU officials stated they want to complete the rate hearing process by March 1; continue to meet cash-on-hand requirements as outlined by financial policies; maintain credit ratings and ensure adequate reserves.
Other goals, according to a BPU news release, include:
• Focusing on needs of customers through enhancing communications and improving business practices; including a biennial customer satisfaction survey; on-going social media and online outreach efforts; working to ensure customer service call counts and completion rates are above industry standards and decreasing lobby wait times, among other things.
• Promoting energy and water efficiency through programs and customer education; including coordination of efficiency workshops in the community, and the identification and development of new efficiency programs such as Community Solar.
• Providing cost effective; safe and reliable utility services which includes monitoring and assessing important environmental regulations; looking to future generation needs; mitigating risks of outages due to aging infrastructure, and meeting or exceeding industry averages in system reliability and energy loss percentages.
• Providing good quality water, available upon demand in an efficient manner to the entire community. Meeting or exceeding state and federal water quality standards, while maintaining an award-winning water system. Trending down main breaks and reducing main leak response times.
BPU continues working to improve internal efficiencies and reduce costs; assist and support community partners and governmental units and meet and prepare for future customer growth while maintaining world-class customer service, the BPU spokesman stated.