The Gering City Council Monday night approved a new budget of nearly $34.5 million for the coming fiscal year that includes a reduction electric rates that city staff says should lead to lower overall utility bills for the typical customer.
Water, wastewater and sanitation rates would increase, but be offset by a 5% reduction in electric rates, a cut that council member Ben Backus said he would like to see at 10%.
However, councilman Michael Gillen said he was apprehensive about the idea of changing the budget that way in the last hour of the process. “Being in the finance industry, it makes a banker really nervous when you start to change the numbers on the day you’re supposed to sign the documents,” said Gillen, “so, I, myself, would recommend we proceed what we agreed upon as a council, and that’s the five percent reduction this year. I’d love to follow that up with another reduction next year.
Gillen and other members also noted the city is facing some considerable future spending for completion of the conversion of the city’s electric system. City Administrator Lane Danielzuk said the cost to finish that project could drain the reserves currently held in the city’s electric fund.
The spending plan includes the realignment of city clerical staff, a process that’s already underway, and does not include a cost-of-living adjustment this year.