Penn Yan electric rate adjustment in the works

Gwen Chamberlain

Penn Yan Village officials plan to spend up to $15,800 to hire an outside firm to submit an electric rate adjustment filing with the Public Service Commission.

The village is seeking a mini-rate case, meaning it will ask for an adjustment to generate up to $300,000 in annual electric revenues. The last electric rate adjustment was done in 1998.

This move is based on information village board members and Municipal Board members learned during a Dec. 7 external audit meeting.

William Frietag, of Bollam, Sheedy, Torani & Co. told village officials during the audit meeting that a municipality going so long without a rate adjustment in New York State is “almost unheard of. Either your rates were a little high at first or the things you could control, you controlled nicely.”

“Your cash balances have been good, which is why the rates have held up so long,” he said.

According to the audit, Penn Yan’s expenses per retail customer are all below other municipal averages.

But the continued shrinkage of the ratio of revenues to expenses indicates the village’s rates aren’t holding up, and need to be reviewed, said Frietag.

The process to adjust the rates can take up to a year or 18 months. If the process begins in January, new rates would likely be effective in the late spring or early summer of 2013, which would have less impact on customers’ bills initially.

During the meeting, the auditors praised the work of village employees who have managed funds well and worked to keep costs down in all sectors of the village’s finances.

“You’ve done a good job keeping an even keel. You’re finding other ways to ease the burden (on) the taxpayers and have put money into the fund balance,” the auditor commented during the review of water and sewer funds.

Frietag said he expects Penn Yan to fare better than other municipalities in the state with respect to the 2 percent tax cap.

During the Dec. 20 village board meeting, Mayor Robert Church praised the village employees for the audit results, saying, “The audit was very complimentary on how we’ve maintained our status. I would like to applaud our people.”

Trustee Willie Allison added, “It was a good feeling coming out of the audit meeting that night. We didn’t pat ourselves on the back, the auditors did.”