At Lincoln Electric System's Administrative Board meeting Sept. 20, LES staff and its Board's Budget & Rates Committee proposed a 2014 total operating budget of $257.6 million, up $2.2 million from the 2013 budget. Also proposed was a capital budget of $64.4 million, which is $6.5 million less than last year's budget. The total proposed budget requires a 2.9 percent system-wide average increase in electric rates effective Jan. 1, 2014. Typical LES residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an average increase of about $2.41 on their monthly bills.
According to Laura Kapustka, LES vice president of Financial Services & chief financial officer, the proposed retail rate adjustment would cover rising energy transmission costs, increased expenses to operate and maintain the utility's assets and system reliability, the updated forecast for energy sales, and the expansion of the utility's popular Sustainable Energy Program.
Kapustka attributed the lower capital expenses to the completion of a couple major construction projects in 2013. "This includes the Central Lincoln Reliability Project, which replaced aging cable throughout the city that was reaching the end of its useful life and beginning to fail, and the Bluff Road Landfill Gas to Energy Project." Each year, the budget is jointly developed by LES management and its Administrative Board's Budget & Rates Committee in an effort to reduce the impact of any necessary rate increase without jeopardizing the reliability of our customer-owners' electric service, Kapustka said.
"As a public power utility, LES' rates are set to only cover costs and do not include a profit margin," she said. "As a result, LES' rates continue to be among the nation's lowest and our reliability record among the highest."
A public meeting on the proposed LES 2014 budget and rate adjustment will be held Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Center for People in Need, 3901 N. 27th St., Unit 1. Board action on the budget and rate adjustment is planned to occur at its Oct. 18 meeting.
With the approval of the LES Administrative Board, the proposed budget and rate adjustment will be considered by the Lincoln City Council at a public hearing in November.