What's Next for Utility Rates?

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Tallahassee Utility customers are now feeling the impact of October's 14 percent increase in utility rates, but will they have to brace for another?

It's the moment they dread all month long, paying the utility bill.

Christopher Rogers says, "Three hundred dollars a month with three roommates, so it's really astronomical."

When he the Tallahassee Utility rates went up by 14 percent back in October, with an average bill at about $118, Billy Gregory said he tried to do all he could to cut the costs.

Billy says, "My wife and I have cut back on the heat and we've turned off all of the lights. We sit in the dark a lot now. We sit in the dark and watch TV, but it's been an angry battle for us anyway."

The pain of the bill may not be going away anytime soon, but David Byrne, Tallahassee's Director of Energy Services, says if the natural gas prices keep falling as they have in the last month from$15 a BTU to $8 a BTU, the city may not be faced with another drastic increase.

David Byrne says, "Although there is quite a bit of pressure to move rates up, I think we're going to be at a reasonable rate coming up this summer."

Byrne says the cost of natural gas, although going down, is still at a historic high, but for now the city says the drastically high rates are expected to stop climbing in time for summer.

The City Commission will soon be considering what to do with $10 million from the Electric Rate Stabilization Fund. City Energy Services says some proposals include a conservation campaign.

The city has already approved to move forward with a programmable thermostat pilot program for 1,000 customers and to enhance "Project Share," which assists low income families with their utility bills.