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Utility Bills on the Rise for Westar Customers

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good news is that electricity bills for Westar’s 687,000 Kansas customers won’t be going up as high as they could have. The bad news is that they are still going up – again – for the 13th time since 2009.

See Also: Make Your Voice Heard on Westar’s Rate Hike Request

On April 18, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) agreed to grant Westar Energy an overall rate increase of $50 million. That may seem like a lot, but in its original rate increase request, Westar asked for a $90.8 million rate hike.

The $50 million rate hike, which was agreeable to both KCC staff and Westar staff prior to its approval by the Commission, means that customer’s bills will go up an average of $3.54 per month according to the KCC.

“An extra $3.54 cents may seem small to Westar and some of its customers, but for those on fixed incomes it is a hardship that may mean they have to cut back on food or medication,” said AARP Kansas Director Maren Turner. “While the rate hike is not as much as it could have been, it’s disappointing that the brunt of this latest increase once again falls on the backs of residential customers and small businesses.” ($41 million of the $50 million will be paid for by Westar’s residential and small business customers.)

Included in the approval of the rate increase is a 10 percent profit for Westar shareholders, something AARP Kansas and the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) opposed. “AARP Kansas takes issue with increasing shareholder profit at the expense of utility customers, especially by such a large amount,” said Turner. CURB, in its formal objection to the rate increase, had suggested shareholders receive an 8.85 percent profit.

Unfortunately, the increases don’t stop with this one. Westar has filed two additional rate increase requests with the KCC, meaning rates will continue to soar. AARP Kansas will continue to oppose unnecessary rate increases and urges utility customers who have trouble paying their bills, no matter what utility company is involved, to contact the KCC online or by phone at 1-800-662-0027 to make their voice heard and/or to find out how to get assistance.