TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)- Communities across Kansas are expecting utility bills up to 25 times higher than normal.
This all stems from brutal winter weather back in February which resulted in rolling blackouts and forced many Kansans to use more electricity and natural gas to stay warm.
“There are some people that are talking that their electric bill and stuff is up to 900 or 1,000 dollars,” Bob Howard, a Holton resident said.
The Holton community isn’t alone, 53 municipal-owned utilities supply natural gas to communities in Kansas and 118 provide electricity. This means they are not regulated by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC).
“Going way back in time your cities that have electric or gas utilities are generally cities that other companies were not looking to service back at that time, Erik Sartorius, Executive Director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said. “So the choice was we do it ourselves or we don’t have it.”
The city of Denison, Kansas, located about 40 miles north of Topeka is one of many in the state grappling with how to pay a $241,000 bill. A unfathomable amount for a city with a population of 133, that usually pays three dollars per heat unit. After facing sub-zero temperatures, this increased to 622 dollars a unit.
On March 4th, Kansas lawmakers passed a $100 million loan program. Any city in Kansas that incurred extraordinary electric or natural gas costs during the extreme weather can apply for a low-interest loan. Then once the applications are approved, the money will be divvied up to to help communities like Denison to cover the extremely high energy costs from last month.
“These cities don’t have an option for not paying their bills and their pending bills were putting them on the brink of bankruptcy,” Lynn Rogers, Kansas State Treasurer, said. “Without emergency action and this aid. The increased prices required to purchase natural gas and electricity would result in devastatingly high utility bills for consumers.”
The loan allows cities to make payments towards the loan on either a monthly basis, quarterly, or semi-annually over the span of 10 years.
Kansans impacted will still be stuck with the high bills, but the loan allows cities to divide the high cost on their bills over the span of months. So customers can pay off what would have been extremely high bills over a longer span of time, rather than be forced to pay an exorbitant amount immediately.
“If nothing else were to happen, what this does is it does provide a much greater period for cities to spread those bills out so the sticker shock will dissipate,” Sartorius said.
To determine if you will see higher bills and figure out if your utility company is regulated or not, view the map of different cities and services here.