COUNCILMAN SEEKS EXEMPTION FROM DWP RATE HIKE FOR L.A. UNIFIED
David Zahniser and Jason Song | LA Times LA Now blog
April 30, 2010 | 7:22 pm -- Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian on Friday called on the
Department of Water and Power to exempt the Los Angeles Unified School District from having to pay an upcoming 4.8% electric rate hike.
Krekorian, who represents part of the east San Fernando Valley, said the increase would only add to the financial crisis at the district, which is facing a $640-million shortfall.
The councilman, a former Burbank school board member, was unsure of the precise cost to L.A. Unified of the pending rate hike but warned that any increase would drain resources from classrooms.
“A million [dollars] that they pay in electrical rates is a million they can’t pay for supplies and athletic equipment and music instruction,” said Krekorian, who voted against the DWP rate increase, which goes into effect July 1.
Councilwoman Jan Perry voiced concerns about Krekorian’s request, saying an exemption for the school district would invite requests from other institutional ratepayers, such as hospitals, homeless shelters, community colleges and county government.
“I think it will open a Pandora’s box,” said Perry, who heads the council’s Energy and Environment Committee.
Krekorian offered his proposal a few days after the school board voted to seek a separate rate for its sprawling educational system. Before that vote, school board member Tamar Galatzan complained that city officials were ignoring the district’s request for rate relief.
To cope with its budget shortfall, the district is pursuing a $100-per-parcel property tax hike on the June 8 ballot. Property owners are also covering the cost of a $19.5-billion school construction and modernization program, whose proceeds can't fund other services. Voters approved four consecutive property tax increases over a 12-year period to pay for that construction program.
KREKORIAN: DWP SHOULD EXEMPT LAUSD FROM RATE HIKES
By Christina Villacorte | City News Service from Daily Breeze
04/30/2010 -- The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power should exempt the city's cash-strapped school district from an increase in electricity bills starting July 1, Councilman Paul Krekorian said Friday.
He filed a motion urging the City Council to request that the utility give the Los Angeles Unified School District a break from the rate hike. He noted the district is already $650 million in the red and has issued layoff notices to 5,200 employees.
"When there's an increase in electricity charges, that eats into the limited amount in discretionary funds that any school district has left after paying its teachers and its staff," Krekorian said.
"That means that for every million dollars more that LAUSD has to pay to the DWP, it's a million dollars less in supplies, after-school programming, music instruction, textbooks and so forth," Krekorian said. "It's a direct hit to education in the classroom to increase the rates on LAUSD."
DWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo said, "We certainly will review the motion filed by the council member and respond to it as it is considered by the council and council committees."
DWP will increase electricity rates by six-tenths of a cent per kilowatt-hour - or about 4.8 percent - starting July 1.
The utility originally called for a rate hike of 2.7 cents per kilowatt hour, to be phased in over a year. The plan - which the council blocked - would have raised certain commercial customers' rates by up to 33 percent.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said a 2.7 cents-per-kilowatt-hour rate hike would raise the school district's annual utility budget by $11.6 million.
"This will have a significant impact on the students and teachers of LAUSD," he said in a letter to the council last month. "The budget crisis has already forced us to reduce central and school site staff - including teachers - and to reduce programs and classroom resources to levels not seen in decades."
In a separate letter, Cortines wrote that the rate hike "could not come at a worse time for LAUSD - we are struggling to find enough funds just to be able to provide the resources, both teachers and programming, needed to properly educate our students, our collective future."