Our View: A Kaysville power struggle

Feb 14 2014 - 2:23pm

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Rancor in Kaysville politics is nothing new, and the latest is discord over the consequences of a city vote last year that restricted city staff and leaders from using Kaysville Power Department revenue for anything other than to operate the city's power plan, unless rate users were notified. The proposal, Proposition 5, also required the city to maintain an emergency fund. It further required that revenues beyond operations and the emergency fund be redistributed annually to plant customers based on their power use.

This led some, including the group, Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government, which supported the proposition, to expect a 2.4 percent rate dip in their power bills. That estimate was based on the $260,000 that was taken from the electric fund and used to hire Kaysville police officers. Because such expenditures are now prohibited, there is an expectation that the sum would translate to a rate decrease.

Proposition 5 became law on Nov. 19 of last year. But city officials say that the proposition made no promise of a rate reduction, and there is no promise that one will occur. In fact, City Manager John Thacker says "when this is sorted out, it might be (a rate) increase."

Kaysville City officials want the emergency fund to be increased considerably above its current $2 million in cash reserves. One figure mentioned is $5.6 million in cash reserves, which besides building a significant operation cushion, would insure rate stabilization if power rates increase. 

So, the big debate is over a redistribution of power rate funds to customers versus establishing a bigger emergency fund. Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt says no official decision has been made, but things are complicated because sponsors of Proposition 5 have broken off talks with city leaders designed to clarify the new law.

Two lessons can be derived from this fracas. One is that if a proposition is pitched as a containing a rate decrease or redistribution, it needs to clearly state so. It's undeniable that the spirit of the proposition meant a rate decrease for power customers. A second lesson is that it's not a good idea to cut off communication with city officials tasked with implementing the new law. Not talking can't be an option. The new law will be defined. Both sides should provide input.

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