The Overton Power District, which also provides electricity to Mesquite and Bunkerville, has proposed their next rate increase: 4.5 percent.
Last year, OPD quietly popped us for a flat $5 increase on their "base charge."
So far, the rate of inflation for the United States is tracking at around 2.3 percent for 2012, and was 3 percent in 2011.
But this increase isn't about inflation, or rising costs of energy production.
Once again, it's about mismanagement by elected officials.
The increase is needed because the Overton Power District has basically maxed out its credit cards and is in danger of missing a few payments.
In big business, they call it "debt service," but it amounts to the same thing. OPD has run up a big debt for various projects, which they paid for by issuing bonds. Those bonds need to be paid back, with interest. The district is in danger of reaching the point where they aren't generating enough money to make those payments, which makes the bond holders and the vultures on Wall Street nervous and less likely to participate in future OPD bonds.
The district has also obscenely overpaid for some of the energy they wind up sending to homes and businesses in the Virgin and Moapa valleys, locking in extremely high rates for years to come.
So they've made a litany of mistakes, and once again they expect us, the ratepayers, to bail them out with the easy fix of grabbing the golden goose's throat and squeezing one more time.
As part of an exceptional expose' in Monday's MesquiteCitizen.com, Barbara Ellestad has blown open the fact that the OPD's general manager makes more than $203,985 a year in base salary, a number that grows to $281,459 when benefits and retirement are factored in.
This is an astonishing number for the head of a tiny rural power company that serves less than 14,000 customers.
Before the torches are lit and the pitchforks are sharpened, keep in mind that the GM has been there for 35 years. It's a reality of any longtime employee that their salary is going to be well above the norm due to annual increases that seem small at the time, but add up to large numbers over the years.
However, that doesn't excuse more than three decades of elected board members who rubber-stamped those raises over the years without applying a whit of common sense. Pile on the fact that the power district is in dire financial condition, which has led the New York rating agencies to downgrade OPD's credit rating to "negative" and crippled OPD's ability to expand or in any way participate in alternative energy projects, it appears the people have not been getting their money's worth from management. Basically, they've run the train into the ditch, and we're going to be paying the tow bill for at least the next decade.
Sadly, being the sheep that we are, we're just going to quietly take it, just like we did with the water district increases and the long lineup of untenable fees the City of Mesquite has rammed up our behinds. In more courageous times, we would have been dressing up like Native Americans and tossing barrels of tea into the harbor. Today, we're just going to shrug our shoulders, mutter "whuddayagunnado," and empty our wallets even further in the ongoing seas of the worst economic conditions in our lifetime.
In other words, we're going to get what we deserve because we won't demand better. In fact, we care so little that all three of the OPD board members up for re-election in November are running unopposed. They know that this tiny tempest will quickly blow over and everyone will soon forget about the latest gouge. We're being good little sheep.
And like most good little sheep, we're headed to slaughter, at least in financial terms.