City councilors approved an increase to Kirkwood's electric rates at its Thursday meeting that would up customers' electric bills $76 a year on average.
The Kirkwood City Council voted 5-1 on Thursday night to change Kirkwood's average yearly electric rate from 9.475 cents to 9.86 cents per kilowatt hour. Summer and winter rates differ in Kirkwood.
Under the new rate, Kirkwood customers would pay on average $9 less a year than Ameren customers.
Councilor Gina Jaksetic voted against the bill to raise rates.
"My intent in voting no was to try to encourage additional dialogue in terms of looking at the electric rate in a much bigger picture of all the other needs of the city," Jaksetic told Patch. "I know we need to increase our rate, but I'm not convinced it needs to be at that level."
The proposed rate could change before the bill goes to the council for a final vote Feb. 7, according to Kirkwood Electric Director Mark Petty.
This is the first increase to the city's electric rate since 2010. Petty said that the increase is necessary for the financial health of the publicly owned utility.
The new rate would generate an extra $760,000 for Kirkwood Electric. According to Petty, additional money is needed to build the utility's cash reserves, improve substations, stabilize rates and keep the utility's bond rating.
"It's important to be sensitive to customer concerns but also concerns of the financial community," Petty told Patch.
During the meeting, councilors praised Kirkwood Electric as a defining entity and spoke to the importance of its future success.
"This is part of an effort to build reserves and it's important for the future sustainability of this corporation," Mayor Art McDonnell said. "Residents are going to be paying much, much more in the future if we do not keep up with our strategic plan."
Councilors acknowledged that increases for city services are never wanted by residents.
"Nobody wants to increase rates," Councilor Bob Sears said. "I hope citizens understand that we treat this very seriously and they understand the need."
Councilors pointed out that Kirkwood Electric customers benefit by getting their energey from a public utility because money they pay goes toward improving city services.
"I think most citizens understand that the electric utility is there for the citizens," Councilor Iggy Yuan said.
Counilor Paul Ward called the public utility "a bedrock entity for Kirkwood."
"Kirkwood Electric is the basic thing that has driven the quality of life in this community," Ward said. "Let's not forget what makes us Kirkwood."
The Kirkwood City Council will take a final vote on Kirkwood Electric rates at its Feb. 7 meeting.
Editor's Note: A previous article cited higher rates based on an earlier version of the bill that was amended before it was presented at Thursday's council meeting.