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JEA board approves tripling base monthly charge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — JEA approved changing its billing structure for the first time in decades to offset growing operational costs. The biggest difference is the utility will triple the basic monthly charge from just more than $5 to $15.

Some community activists spoke out during Tuesday’s board meeting against the change, arguing it disproportionately impacts lower income households.

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“This proposal still increases costs and works a hardship for people living in apartments and small houses who use the least amount of electrical power,” Ben Frazier, founder of the Northside Coalition, said. “A classic example of economic injustice.”

While the basic monthly charge is increasing, JEA is decreasing the energy costs which means those who use more will save more.

“The lower users are going to be affected the most. I don’t know that’s necessarily correlated with lower income,” said JEA CEO Jay Stowe.

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For example, a customer who uses 2,000 KWH a month will save more than $4.00 on base rates. But a customer who uses 600 KWH spends an additional approximately $5.00 according to projections by JEA. More than half of JEA’s customer base uses 1000 KWH or less a month.

The utility said the change will take place in April, and because of reducing fuel charges, customers will still notice a drop in their bill by about $20 compared to January. JEA said April’s fuel rate is the lowest customers have seen in several rates.

The changes comes as JEA looks to pay more than $200 million for Plant Vogtle. Stowe said yearly rate increases could be in the future.

“We will continue to manage our costs the best way we can — but we have to fund our resources and fund the decision we made — Vogtle was 2008 when that decision was made,” he said.

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Board Vice Chair Marty Lanahan asked that members review the billing structure annually, rather than waiting years as they did this time around.

“It does feel like a big increase. I think the issue is we haven’t reviewed it in a very long time.”

A study conducted for JEA recommended a basic monthly charge of $23, but the utility instead went with $15.

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