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New Richmond electric rates under review

New Richmond Utilities has embarked on a rate study for its electric utility.

According to Nancy Peterson, utility finance manager, the city's electric rates have remained the same since April 1, 2006.

The local utility has been slowly losing its financial footing as revenues decrease and maintenance and operational expenses rise. In 2011, the utility's rate of return for electricity was 3.25 percent. For 2012, the utility expects to record a negative rate of return.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission allows public utilities to budget for up to a 6.5 percent rate of return.

According to Mike Darrow, city administrator and utilities manager, a rate study will begin during January to see how the community stacks up in terms of electric rates for residential, industrial and commercial customers.

"We want to find out how competitive we are," he said.

Darrow said the study will take between four to six months to complete.

"So it will be April or May before we know anything," he said.

If a rate hike is deemed necessary, the PSC would need to approve the eventual increase. Such a rate increase will not be implemented for at least six months, Darrow reported.

"It wouldn't happen until sometime in the summer," he guessed.