CPS Energy rebate may be dead as city council wants other options for $50M surplus revenue
The city of San Antonio has revised its proposal to return $50 million in unanticipated CPS Energy revenue this summer, but most of the city council doesn’t seem to be in favor of it.
Instead, many council members want to see what else it could be used for with suggestions for weatherization, climate change protection and new funding mechanisms for sustainability. The city’s latest proposal called for adding more money to a residential assistance program that would help past-due balances clear faster.
A budget meeting on Tuesday ended with the proposal being pulled from consideration next week.
The city’s suggestion would reduce the amount returned to customers' bills to $42.5 million and the other $7.5 million would go into a program known as REAP — or Residential Energy Assistance Partnership — which helps families pay their utility bills. The first proposal originally suggested $5 million for REAP.
The new proposal would reduce the bill credit returned to residential customers from an average of about $31 to $29.
There are about 27,000 CPS Energy customers on its affordability discount program and they are collectively behind by about $23 million. Use of the REAP funds for past due balances would require a customer to be on a payment plan, the city’s Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell told council members.
“CPS will auto enroll them in this modified budget plan. They’ll take the past due balance, spread it out over 48 months and then once that customer makes at least three payments, they will also automatically get the $300 credit applied to their balance,” Gorzell said.
This second interaction of the rebate plan was met with mixed reaction from council members, with a majority not in favor of the small rebates and instead suggesting other uses.
District 9 Councilman John Courage wants it to be used for weatherization of homes.
“I think that would help individuals, thousands of them, and it would also help CPS reduce the amount of energy it needs to provide to everybody in the city which means it would reduce everybody’s cost,” he said.
District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda said her constituents were not interested in a rebate.
“They've asked us to do something more meaningful with it,” she said. “This is a question of a one-time refund versus an investment. I invite everyone to consider which one is long term, which one does the most good.”
The total CPS Energy revenue surplus is actually $75 million, but City Manager Erik Walsh earmarked $25 million for other programs within the city’s general fund: sidewalks would get $6 million; $9 million would renovate or purchase a building for hazard supplies; and $10 million would go to the the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry has advocated for the city’s rebate plan since it was first suggested last month. However, Perry wanted the city to go further by returning all $75 million. He said his residents want the full amount.
“They’re pretty unhappy, they’re thinking why should they not be getting a refund, total, on that $75 million,” he said.
For the credits to be applied to October bills, the council would have needed to vote by Sept. 8 but given the lack of consensus, Walsh has pulled it from the agenda saying there would be further conversation.
Without a scheduled vote, it leaves the plan in uncertainty with no timeline for a decision.