Councilman Victor Hernandez proposes a "conference committee" of sorts to hash out a battle over the Lubbock Power & Light budget. At stake: will LP&L customers will see a rate hike soon?
Hernandez says in a Wednesday news release, "One of my suggestions is that a joint meeting of the entire LP&L board and the entire city council be called in order to resolve any disagreements." Or, the other idea is a meeting with some members of both.
However, also on Wednesday morning, a truce was called between the supporters of competing ideas that might reduce the need for a conference committee. Or maybe not. Hernandez says the cease fire is fragile. "The vibes I get are nobody is 100% happy."
On Monday KCBD.com broke the story of a behind-the-scenes battle. The LP&L Board proposes a rate hike, which is met with objections by the Mayor and City Council. At the same time, the city staff wrote a counter-proposal which avoids, at least through December, any need for a rate hike. However, the counter-proposal calls for borrowing more than $10 million for capital projects that the LP&L had planned for pay-as-you-go.
Mayor Glen Robertson says the LP&L finance committee met with the city staff and agreed to use the counter-proposal. "The finance committee is okay with it. The LP&L board is telling me they don't have an issue," says Robertson.
Former Mayor Marc McDougal is on the committee. He says, "We're okay with it. It's gonna be a short term solution. It will give Council another option on the table so they can get their budget finalized."
McDougal echoes a sentiment by LP&L Chairman Mike Davis earlier this year about not borrowing money to balance the electric utility's budget. "It's not something I want to see done on a routine basis."
So why do it? "It buys us some time and makes sure the council is comfortable with where LP&L is," says McDougal.
Robertson and other Council members want final numbers on summer revenues and expenses, LP&L's most profitable time of year, before agreeing to a rate hike. So that means rates won't change until December, or later.
Like McDougal, Hernandez doesn't like borrowing money to operate LP&L. "It really makes no sense to me to do that," Hernandez says.
When asked if a conference committee was still needed, Hernandez said Wednesday afternoon, "In order to not have a public rift, a lot of folks are going to go along with it [the counter proposal]." So Hernandez still thinks it might be a good idea.
The Mayor disagrees and makes reference to the finance committee. "They'll recommend the full [LP&L] board endorse it."
Council will take up the counter-proposal budget Thursday evening.
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