INDEPENDENCE, Mo — Independence Public Utilities Advisory Board (PUAB) wants the city to give rate payers money.
On Friday, the PUAB approved a proposal from Mark McDonald, a PUAB board member, asking the city to take funds from Independence Power and Light and put it back into the pockets of rate payers.
"It's always been their money and that's who it should be going to," McDonald said. "I would like for us to be following the charter-that's why I made the recommendation today."
The city's charter states, "the electric utility shall apply all annual profits to rate reductions."
However, with the exception of 2019, McDonald said Independence hasn't seen a reduction in utility rates in years.
While unemployment rates skyrocket across the country, McDonald said rate payers of Independence need help paying their utility bills.
Zack Walker, Independence City Manager, said there is $25 million in IPL funds that are not being held for a specific purpose.
However, Walker said, the funds don't necessarily constitute a "profit."
"Philosophically, they (PUAB) see extra cash on hand and say, it's time to offer rebates," Walker said. "We, as management say, best practices, we need surplus cash for unforeseen events."
While the city charter states all profits should be used to lower utility rates, it does not specify how much money should be held in IPL funds for unforeseen events or what constitutes as a profit.
Walker said he would like the charter to have clearer language.
"I really have implored the city and the community to take seriously the idea of a charter review committee to go in and add more stringent, well-defined language, like surplus, like profit , so we don't have to have these philosophical differences of opinion," Walker said.
Garland Land was the only PUAB memeber who voted against the proposal. He expressed concerns over the economic impact the pandemic may have on the city in months to come. Land said he would rather find a way to distribute money to people in need, instead of distributing funds to all rate payers.
However, McDonald maintains, the money belongs to the rate payers in the first place.
"The bottom line is, we gotta move and as this crisis gets deeper, folks are gonna need those funds as soon as possible," McDonald said.
The city council will vote on the proposal at Monday's city council meeting. It will be up to the council to decide if a rebate will be given to rate payers and, if so, how the funds will be distributed.