copyright the Chronicle January 10, 2018
by Elizabeth Trail
BARTON VILLAGE — The trustees here are trying to decide when would be the best time to petition the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for an electric rate hike.
“One reason we had such a huge increase a couple of years ago is that we had let a lot of time go,” Trustee Justin Barton-Caplin said at Monday night’s regular trustees’ meeting.
In 2015, Barton Electric Department’s rates jumped 16.7 percent after letting seven years go between increases.
At that time, Barton officials asked what was then called the Public Service Board for a 21 percent hike, but the higher number was denied.
Electric departments, like everyone else, have to deal with constantly increasing costs. But leftover money from a bond raised for a system upgrade that got mixed in with operating funds gave Barton’s electric company a false sense of running in the black for a number of years. The village’s bookkeeping was such that the problem went unnoticed for a long time.
Even after discovering the huge hole in the electric department’s budget, it took an audit and over a year of remedial accounting to get the village’s records in shape to present its rate case in 2015.
For the past three years, a new set of trustees and a new village administration have worked to straighten out the village’s books and put the electric department on a sound footing. Now the trustees are anxious to keep it that way.
“I think we should plan for another rate increase this year,” Trustee Cathy Swain said over speakerphone. She attended the meeting remotely.
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