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L.A. City Council to consider approving higher electricity rates

City News Service | 9/25/2012, 9:03 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The Los Angeles City Council will consider approving higher electricity rates today amid reports that salaries at the Department of Water and Power are significantly higher than those paid by other utilities, both public and private.

The council is due to vote on whether to raise electricity rates by 4.9 percent this year and 6 percent next year. Intended to generate an extra $321 million by June 2014, the increases were approved by the DWP board of commissioners on Sept. 12 on grounds they were needed to facilitate infrastructure improvements and comply with mandates to reduce energy consumption while increasing renewable energy use.

"It is never easy to raise our customers' rates, but the department has made the case that these investments are needed to comply with legal mandates and to invest in replacing aging infrastructure that is essential to maintaining reliable service to our customers," board President Thomas Sayles said at the time.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, however, preceded today's meeting by asserting that he would not vote for any new rate hikes until city leaders address the gap between salaries and benefits given at the DWP and those provided to other city workers.

"All of those issues have been brought up" in the past, Parks told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just that the council has had no will to deal with them."

Parks' arguments are expected to be strengthened by the findings of a recent consultant report that concluded, according to The Times, that key employee groups at the DWP earn more and receive health and retirement benefits that appear "more generous than industry norms."

The report released last month endorsed the proposed rate hikes but stated the DWP needs to look seriously at cutting personnel costs, The Times reported. It also said that:

  • Workers at DWP "contact centers" made an average 20 percent more than their counterparts at 13 comparable utilities, including Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Co;
  • The average top salary for a DWP groundman/utility worker was 41 percent higher than the average top salary for that job at 15 other utilities;
  • The average maximum salary for a DWP cable splicer was 43 percent higher than average maximum salaries paid at 15 other utilities;
  • The average salary for a meter reader at the DWP was 46 percent higher than those employed by 13 comparable utilities;
  • And DWP customer service employees are paid an average 28 more than those in other utilities.