Mishawaka council approves electric rate hike

Mishawaka, Ind. For the first time in more than 20 years, Mishawaka residents will see an increase in their electric rates.

The council unanimously approved a rate hike Monday night that will go into effect next month.

Under the change, the average residential customer will pay 14 percent more.

"We believe that to continue to function in a solid, business fashion, the electric utility needs to generate about $6.3 in additional revenues," said John Julien with Umbaugh and Associates.

About half of that revenue will be set aside for capital projects. Mayor Dave Wood says it will also help increase cash flow, which is important in events like the severe weather Michiana saw Monday.

"With overtime and the things we have to spend, it can take a big hit," he said. "We're not prepared to take a lot of those hits at our current state."

The change will go into effect Dec. 5 at the earliest, meaning customers will make their first payment with the new rates Jan. 5.

Businesses will also take on the financial burden, paying up to 19 percent more. Schools will see an increase of about 12 percent.

While no one spoke in opposition to the changes before the vote Monday night, some Mishawaka residents were vocal at previous public meetings about the proposal. They said the double-digit hike was too much.

But, the city says it's worked hard to increase efficiencies and make cuts over the past 22 years. Now, there's no other way to maintain or improve services without more money.

"I think last night is a good example," said Mishawaka Utilities General Manager Jim Schrader. "Yes, our system performed well under stress. But, it required a lot of work that had to take place last night. There are some things that we're even planning in the near future to hopefully avoid those types of interruptions."

After the rate hike goes into effect, customers will also notice the constantly fluctuating 'tracker fee' has been eliminated from their bills. But, starting next summer, there will be an I & M adjustment rate, which will also change month-to-month. That fee is expected to be low.

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