Last month we published an article about the value of electricity. This month, we are keeping with that theme and exploring another way WFEC is keeping our members’ electric rates as low as possible.
We mentioned before that our rates are as low as they were back in 2008 and this keeps holding true. WFEC rates for 1,000 kWh also remain lower than the local investor-owned utilities. One of the reasons this remains true for WFEC is because your board of trustees and upper management at the cooperative are very aware of the trust cooperative members have placed in them and make a concerted effort to be responsible with the funds with which they are entrusted.
Recent reductions in the workforce has contributed to maintaining lower rates. WFEC saw a reduction in twelve employees by attrition in 2015 and expects at least five more during 2016. Savings generated from this reduction in staff has allowed WFEC to postpone future rate increases. In most cases, the cooperative has chosen not to replace those retiring employees, and instead, split jobs and reallocated responsibilities to existing positions within the cooperative - this has allowed WFEC to also see a reduction in salaries. The cooperative is effectively doing more with fewer employees and expects to continue being able to do so.
Outsourcing tasks like right-of-way trimming and even some line construction for major projects has also provided the cooperative with opportunities to save on things like insurance and benefits and pass those savings along to its members.
Since all of the expenses of the cooperative are paid by its members, not by remote investors, delinquent payments are recovered from those members who do pay. It is for this reason that WFEC takes the collection of unpaid balances seriously. As a cooperative, we try to be sympathetic when a member is experiencing difficulty paying their bill, but that must be tempered by our responsibility to protect other members from uncollected expenses. Doing a better job of collecting outstanding debts and dedicating a position to overseeing this collection has led the cooperative to see a reduction in the amount of write-offs and uncollectible debt, which in the past had to be recovered from those members who do pay their bills in a timely manner.
Taking steps like those mentioned above should help the cooperative continue to save and be able to pass those savings along to its members in the future. Rest assured, the cooperative’s board and management staff will do all they can to continue keeping rates as low as possible for WFEC members. Next month we will explore how the co-op’s relationship with PowerSouth has helped reduce wholesale power costs.