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Increase in utilities rates needed to bridge Salem’s budget gap

Officials urge customers to conserve power to save money
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 11:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Utility bills are a big concern for everyone across the Ozarks.

We’ve covered this issue for the past few years, especially for those living in Salem.

Once again, people living there have reached out to us about another rate hike.

Like many other cities, Salem has an operating budget.

The city pays for most of its costs with the money collected through utility bills.

Utility rates will have to increase to cover the budget shortfall.

Tuesday night a handful of people turned out for Salem’s Utility Committee Meeting. The group is working on ways to propose cost cuts to avoid drastically raising the costs for consumers.

More than $1 million is needed to balance the city’s budget. The money is used to pay for everything from animal control to the police department.

Over the years, frustrations over utilities billing throughout the community have some wondering why the cost of doing business falls on people living in town with personal finances already stretched thin.

“So the residents are funding the rest of the city whether they want to or not or whatever. You can cut from the general fund. Most of the people aren’t going to know that information but they’re going to pay for it,” said one woman at the meeting.

The electric, sewer, and water rates will have to go up for people living in Salem. It’s just a matter of how much. The committee has a few ideas but nothing that will help balance the city’s budget immediately.

It’s why a $10 a month usage fee proposal plus at least a 27 percent rate increase is on the table. The usage fee will sunset within 1 year. Also being considered is a 34 percent increase without a monthly usage fee. Fees could decrease at a later date according to city officials. They recommend conserving energy as much as possible to keep customers’ costs to a minimum. Overage rates often apply during the late afternoon and early evening hours.

“If it was privately owned the city would be getting taxes or would receive some return on that. Different cities take different approaches in how they fund that. If the committee wishes for the city to reconsider that it would be my recommendation to the alderman to review that,” said city administrator Ray Walden.

The utility committee will present its recommendations to the alderman at next week’s meeting.

Rates will likely go up by the middle of July.

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