Officials with the City of Galion Financial Planning and Supervision Commission said on Thursday that it would be more difficult for the city to be released from fiscal emergency if the city would be required to refund electric rate users for alleged overcharges between 2005-2012.
The ballot issue, raised by the citizens group Citizens for Galion and is pending petition signature review by the Crawford County Board of Elections, is asking for an independent audit of city’s electric rate structure.
Group members say they believe the city overcharged residents by over $4 million during that time, a claim that has been rebutted by various Galion officials. If the ballot measure passes, the city would be bound by the audit to repay any overcharges to electric users during 2005-2012.
City Financial Supervisor Belinda Miller, upon questioning by City Council President Carl Watt, gave her assessment of the structure.
“According the ordinance, the PCA (Power Cost Adjuster) is (supposed to be) evaluated every six months, but we’re doing it every month,” she said. “In our evaluation, the city followed the procedure and the PCA was evaluated and applied properly. We can’t evaluate if everyone’s bill is accurate since it was generated electronically, but unless there was a problem with computers, our understanding was it was applied properly.”
Miller also said the city receives an annual financial audit and the electric is part of it.
Watt asked about how the issue would impact the city being in fiscal emergency.
“To get out of fiscal, have to cure all the conditions, not project any new ones and have a healthy balance for next five years,” State Financial Planning Administrator Sharon Hanrahan said. “Based on the five-year projection for the electric balance ($3.5 million), it wouldn’t portray a healthy cash balance.”
“A $4 million refund would put it in the negative,” Miller said.
“If fund goes into negative balance, the only one to recover is to raise rates,” Hanrahan said.
Roberta Wade, part of Citizens for Galion, said during public participation that an audit is needed.
“The public is entitled to have an audit,” Wade said. “Clearly the city wasn’t following the rate ordinance.”