Massive rate hike approved for Wellington residents

WELLINGTON, Kansas - Wellington's reserve funding is dwindling and the community hospital has been struggling.  Now the city says the only way to fix that is to ask residents to pay by raising utility rates.

"Some people are going to be forced to move," said resident Sandra King.

News of a significant rate hike has many residents concerned.

"I don't know how people who are in the lower class are going to make it," said Betty Pattrick.

This week the city council voted to raise the electric rates by an average of 30 percent, and it's the first increase the town has seen in 9 years.

"We knew that we were getting to a point as a city that we were going to have to raise rates," said Wellington Mayor Shelly Hansel.

Getting to that point because of past business decisions like avoiding mill levy increases and loaning money to a failing hospital left Wellington in a bad financial state.

"Our funds were so depleted that if we didn't do something we were at the risk of bankruptcy," Hansel said.

As part of that overall increase residents can expect a spike in their monthly meter charge from $10 to $17.75.

"A 30% increase is a lot of money," said Pattrick.

City leaders know it will be hard for many residents, but are hoping the change will bring stability.

"I'd like to see the outcome within a year and maybe that seems like a long-term goal, but in a year's time we'll know where we are better budget-wise and rates and the city will be on more sure footing." Said Executive Director of Sumner County Economic Development Stacy Davis.

Although they're not happy about it, some residents are understanding.

"We may not like it, but we're going to have to live with it. It's just the only thing they could do," said King.

City officials are working on setting up a fund for families and low-income households who can't afford the new increase.  New rates go into effect at the beginning of 2016.

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