Taxation Through Higher Utilility Rates

Letter To The Editor_Pongratz Endorses Chris Chandler For House District 43 Seat (27)

Dear Editor,

On tonight’s Los Alamos County Council Consent Agenda there is a transfer of Excess Revenues from the Gas and Electric Fund to the County’s General Fund.

The Department of Public Utilities cannot make a profit through their operations, so something must be done with the revenues that we, the consumers, are overcharged for those services. In tonight’s meeting, the Department of Public Utilities wants to transfer those excess dollars to the County’s General Fund.

First, I think the topic should be taken off of the Consent Agenda and brought up as a Business Agenda item. Remember, Consent Agenda items are passed as a group of items without discussion. If put on the Business Agenda, each Councilor has to vote for this waste of our Utility dollars.

Second, there is a schedule included in the agenda that shows that this is a recurring process, so we are being overcharged regularly as a mechanism to give the County government more money to spend on other things. A quick glance shows that the transfer amounts to about $0.75 million dollars per year. The sheet shows these numbers going back to 2009. That’s about $7.5 million that the County gets to spend from our Utility rates because we are being overcharged for Gas and Electric.

Third, the Council has the authority to transfer funds between Utilities, if requested. So, instead of raising our water and sewer rates again, as they did recently, why don’t we take those excess funds and apply them to the debt burden for the White Rock Water Treatment Plant, or reduce our utility rates. Why has this become a mechanism for the County to put its hands deeper into our pockets?

If you cannot make it to the County Council meeting this evening, at least e-mail the County Council ( ) demanding that this item be put on the Business Agenda for public discussion. Tell them that we are being overcharged for Gas and Electric and that there should not be an anticipated excess that goes to the County for General spending. Further, tell them that you want the funds transferred to pay down the debt for the White Rock Water Treatment Facility or to pay for some other Utility project that we are being separately charged for.

To add gas to the fire, so to speak, there is an agenda item this evening where the Council is being brought up to date on the County’s investment in a yet-to-be-built-or-licensed nuclear power plant. They are considering the venture capital investment of $1 million this year and a commitment of another $7 million in a couple of years on something that may not even get licensed. A prior Councilor suggested that it would be in our best interest to wait for the project to come online and buy electricity at a slightly higher price than to risk millions of the County’s dollars on something that may never come online. The County and the Council know that we are at risk of losing all dollars invested.

I hope to see you at the Council meeting tonight.