EUGENE, Ore. - Power rates for Eugene Water and Electric Board are up 14 percent in the last two years - and expected to increase more in the future.
"We can't balance our budget on labor alone," spokesman Joe Harwood said.
Higher power costs are driving this latest dilemma: The Bonneville Power Administration says it will boost wholesale power rates at least 15 percent in 2013.
Half of that increase is passed on to the ratepayers at EWEB, where more than half of the utility's juice comes from the BPA.
Surplus power sales have slumped 20 percent for EWEB, and critical reserve funds are down.
"Power costs and the power markets are out of EWEB's control but our operating costs and that sort of thing are in our control," Harwood said.
EWEB cut 53 employees in June, about 10 percent of the workforce.
And the utility has delayed necessary work on the Carmen-Smith hydroelectric dam on the McKenzie river and has delayed the Smart-Meter program to save money next year.
But the utility expects rate increases of 8 percent to 10 percent for power. Water rates face a possible 30 percent increase.
For the average EWEB customer, that is $8 more per month for power.
On the water side, the increase works out to $6.60 a month.
"I think it's high and especially with the shape the country is in and everybody," said customer Bill Wardle.
"I guess I have to have quite a bit of trust and faith in our elected board to do what's right," Frank Alderson of Eugene said.
Ratepayers will get to sound off at meetings next month and in the fall before final decisions on the rates come down.