City Council
9:00 am
Tue May 29, 2012

City Council Takes Up Urban Rail, Austin Energy Rates

For all we know, our Austin City Council members – like most the rest of Austin – got in some rest and relaxation over Memorial Day.

Here's hoping they did, as despite the absence of a regular council meeting this Thursday, today brings two high profile work sessions on hot button topics: urban rail, and Austin Energy rates.

Urban rail is up first, at 9 a.m. Last week, the council received its first detailed briefing on funding schemes the city’s considering to pay for the first recommended phase of rail. That first phase would serve downtown, the Capitol Complex, the University of Texas, Hancock Center and the Mueller development.

City planners hope that federal transportation dollars could cover half of the estimated $550 million cost of the inital phase. This morning, the council is posted to consider one item: rail investment options, meaning we may see an official recommendation on how much the city should invest, likely in the form of bond spending.

Then at 1:30 p.m., the council begins its second work session: a discussion of Austin Energy customer rates.

Four items are on tap at the meeting:

  • A discussion of the City Auditor’s report on Austin Energy’s proposed revenue requirements, one of the leading cost-drivers behind the need for a rate raise;
  • Another look at “departmental conditions including horizon issues, unmet needs, key performance data and financial forecast for Austin Energy;”
  • Potential action on several components of the rate redesign – basically, pretty much every aspect that’s still outstanding –  to be finalized at a future City Council meeting:

Financial policies governing debt service coverage ratio; capital projects debt-to-equity funding ratios; reserve fund policies; interim revenue options; general fund transfer levels and calculation methodology, other transfers, and payments for shared services; distributed generation and energy efficiency goals; the design and funding of low income customer assistance programs; budget reduction options; line extension and new service charges; revenue regulation and decoupling; cost-of-service methodologies for allocating costs among customer classes; rates for specific customer classes, including faith-based, community, and not-for-profit organizations, school districts, industrial users, and out-of-city ratepayers; rate design for distributed solar and energy efficiency goals; allocation of off-system wholesale power sale revenues; connection and disconnection fees; other Austin Energy revenue requirements not addressed in prior work sessions; fixed charges and alternatives; inverted block rate structures; bundled rate plans for low-use customers; the components and calculation methodology for the fuel charge; phasing options for the implementation of rate increases; potential rate impacts from Generation Plan updates; the total utility revenue requirement to be recovered through the revised rates; and the rate design and structure to be brought back to Council for final consideration and action.

  • And finally, discussion and possible action on whether further Austin Energy work sessions are needed.

Council is currently scheduled to make its final rate decision at a regular meeting on Thursday, June 7. You can watch both of today's meetings on the City of Austin website