A CPS energy power line borders Rancho Sierra and other ranches adjacent.
CPS Energy power lines run through northern Bexar County. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

CPS Energy leaders approved a budget for the current fiscal year, with utility executives touting their efforts to cut costs and successfully avoid raising customers’ bills.

At its April meeting Monday, the municipally owned utility’s board approved a $2.66 billion budget for its current fiscal year, which began in February and will end in January 2019.

More than half of that – 61 percent – will go toward operation and maintenance, costs that President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams said will continue to go up as CPS Energy’s system grows and interest rates rise, among other factors.

“There are thousands of things that [CPS staff and executives] do within this budget that you can’t see,” she told the board. “For us, it’s usually that day-in-and-day-out dig, dig, dig, offset, negotiate value … to prevent the erosion of our financial health.”

Last month, Gold-Williams raised the possibility of rate increases in the utility’s next fiscal year. That year’s budget is far from final, though.

“This management team is constantly looking at savings, savings, savings to offset [rising costs],” Gold-Williams said. “Eventually you get to the point where to continue operations in a 24/7 business that requires this type of maintenance and investment, we end up having to ask the community to do it.”

CPS Energy officials expect to add around 4,000 gas customers, 16,400 residential electric customers, and 1,000 nonresidential electric customers this fiscal year, according to budget documents.

San Antonio City Council last approved hikes to customers’ bills in 2013.

Also at the meeting, the utility’s board approved the appointment to the utility’s Citizens Advisory Committee of electrical engineer and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Yakubik to represent San Antonio’s District 9.

The 15-member committee meets monthly with utility officials to offer input. San Antonio’s 10 council members each nominate one member from their district, with the remaining five nominated by the committee itself. Each can serve up to three two-year terms.

“As a taxpayer and a utility customer, I pay attention to my bill(s) and what affects them over the short and long terms,” Yakubik said in a prepared statement. “I appreciate the programs that invest ratepayer money in conservation and reduce energy use, because they save the homeowner money but also reduce the need for additional power generation.”

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.