York council raises price of natural gas to balance books

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

YORK-The city of York is taking a serious look at its financial situation and methods to correct their issues. Last week, the city hired Thomas Luke as a consultant to explore areas to bring the city’s finances back up to par.

Luke said one of he first thins he did when they came in was examine the revenue. He said they discovered their revenue did not exceed their expenses on a month-to-month basis so they decided there must be an error.

“We went back and looked at the utility rates and we started into our gas rate,” Luke said. “We found out the wrong number was in the computer calculating the gas bills. People have been buying the gas for just a little bit more than the city was paying for it. The gas has been costing the city.”

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The gas bought by the city cost $1.23, Luke said, but residential rates were only $1.29, commercial rates were $1.39 and industrial rates were only $1. These rates, Luke said, cost the city money in the long run. He said they decided to go with a flat rate.

“The cost of natural gas has escalated,” Luke said. “We are currently working through Southern Natural to buy our gas, but in order to profit we had to adjust our rate.”

Luke said they would go to one flat rate of $2.25.

The situation, Luke said, was similar to that of gasoline.

“The market on natural gas is fluctuating every day,” Luke said. “Natural gas has continued to go up because it is winter time and there are more people demanding natural gas. That is the reason it has gone up.”

An increasing demand, Luke said, has not helped the situation. He said rates would have to go up, but the prices for the last two years have been lower than other cities so things would even out.

“You will see the gas rates go up, but you have been getting a bargain for the last two years,” Luke said. “You have been paying just a fraction of what it cost the city.”

Only gas, Luke said would rise. Water rates, sewer rates and garbage rates were all satisfactory. He also said they would take a close look at meters reporting no usage. The number, Luke said was much higher than it should be and believed some meters were not functioning properly.

Some city workers, Luke said, would also get fewer hours. Some will have hours cut from 40 to 32. Some workers have also been laid off. However, Luke said when the city’s financial situation begins to clear up hours will be raised and workers will be offered their jobs back.

The city has a long way to go, Luke said, but he believed they could get back on the right path with cooperation.

“We have an extremely large number of accounts payable right now,” Luke said. “We are going to work on trying to get those paid. People are going to have to be patient with us and give us time to work out of it.”

York Mayor Carolyn Mitchell Gosa said Luke and workers at city hall have made the most of their first four days together.

“He has really done a lot,” Gosa said. “He is working with everyone in city hall and they have gotten a lot done. He is going to get it done and we know we just have to work together to come out from under this financial burden.”