September 21, 2014

Nine businesses get accidental utility bill break

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Gardner Energy under billed nine commercial customers by $40,000 last year. Electric utility board members learned during a Jan. 2 meeting that non-residential customers were billed incorrectly in February 2013.
“We were looking at some billing by class for 2013, and we discovered a billing discrepancy that occured during February 2013. If you recall, we had a pretty significant snow storm then that actually shut down city hall,” Bill Krawczyk, Gardner Energy director, told the board.
Gardner Energy contracts city employees to do its billing, and during the shut down some electric usage was estimated for commercial customers.
Laura Gourley, city finance director, told members of the city council other bills created during the snow storm were billed correctly. For some reason, however, for nine customers, the demand portion of their electric bill was left off.
For now, officials aren’t certain what caused the problem, but they believe it is a software issue.
“The important thing at this point in time is that we get it fixed, so it doesn’t happen again,” Krawczyk said.
He said he would like to see procedures put in place that would note utility bills that are unusually high or low.
“A red flag goes up and somebody says, something isn’t right with this bill,” Krawczyk said.
Gourley said that a procedure has been put in place that requires manual entries for demand portions of bills, in the event usage must be estimated in the future.
In other business, members of the electric utility board:
• tabled a decision to appoint someone to the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency Board of Directors during a meeting Jan. 2. The board needs to find a replacement for former Gardner Energy employee Darrin McNew, who served as an EUB on the KMEA board.
McNew resigned from the city’s electric utility, and now the EUB must find a replacement who lives in Gardner and is a customer of Gardner Energy. The dual requirements eliminated many potential Gardner Energy employees from the role.
Board members consider appointing a member of the EUB to represent Gardner on the KMEA board of directors, but tabled the decision to a later meeting.
• heard an update on Gardner Energy’s power line clearing program. As part of the program, brush is cleared around power lines in different parts of the city each year. The entire city is covered every four years. This year marks the program’s fifth year, so the line clearing process starts over.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Did the 9 businesses pay the $40,000 owed to the citizens?

    The CFG Facebook page this morning was alive with complaints about excessively high Gardner utility bills just this past week or so. I would think City Hall would have got heavy calls today and perhaps for a few days. Will be interesting to hear about these most recent billings.

    As usual Gardner citizens have much to deal with respect to their cronyism city government. Also this weekend it was interesting to see KU’s plans to build an extravagant dorm for their basketball students. Reminded me of how Gilhaus got by with loading that last bond issue with “sports education” wants and then the asinine people approved it.

    Citizens have all of these expensive messes laid at their doorsteps due to their own apathy and ignorance and they will get dumber by the day, in my opinion, considering how “sports education” is enabled and supported while our youth fall farther and farther behind on the international level and how the bureaucrats and politicians govern for the thieves rather than the citizens who seem to be the only entities around who pay taxes and I am not just talking about those who get the “farm” appraisals. I note that the “farm appraisal” financial rape is on the city of Gardner’s legislative agenda – I am waiting on Sutton to do his job and introduce and work hard to get a bill through the legislature to stop this wrongdoing, however, I won’t be holding my breath waiting on him to do the right thing – he and all of those jaybirds in Topeka today and for the next few months will continue to support and enable the thieves who get their “farm appraisals” which almost totally eliminates their tax responsibilities – every citizen is carrying a heavier tax burden because of this prime example of cronyism government and they don’t lift a finger to help themselves.

    Same ole, same ole for 2014…………..and you better have the dollars to keep up with all of the costs you have to cover for all of the back room deals and your government that works for the thieves rather than the citizens.

    Here are some comments about the KPERs program. If this information is correct, it shows you how those so-called representatives and senators take care of their own and they put the knife into the backs of average citizens who are the only ones around to pay the bills. It is no wonder we have a $10 BILLION deficit on that KPERs program and citizens better be realizing who and how they are going to pay for that extreme financial cost.

    Michael F LoBurgio · Top Commenter · Ellinwood HighLegislators’ KPERS calculation a ‘perk’.

    A state pension formula exclusive to Kansas legislators assumes they work every day – all 372 days of the year.

    As legislators wrestle to bring solvency to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, their annualized pay formula, based partially on non-existent days and pay, has not entered discussions.

    Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, defended the KPERS formula for legislators by pointing to lawmakers’ pay, which he said was among the lowest in the country.

    It’s a perk, said Rep. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, and chairman of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee.

    “It’s one of the few perks we have,” he added.

    Building a benefit.

    There are approximately 1,400 state, local government and school participating employers in KPERS and about 260,000 active, inactive and retired members, according to the agency.

    Pension benefits are determined by final average salary, years of service, and a multiplier. Both employees and the employer pay into the system on a percentage basis. Where the KPERS formula takes a detour for legislators is how it calculates their pay.

    Members of the 40-seat Senate and the 125-seat House fall under the same pay scale. A legislator’s pay is not a set sum but is built from three parts: daily rate, subsistence and non-session allowance.

    A legislator receives a daily rate of $88.66 during the session. That includes payment for Saturday and Sunday, unless the Legislature takes a break. Last year, the Legislature reduced the $88.66 daily rate to $84.23 a day for six pay periods, in response to a tight economy and budget. This year, the daily rate is back at $88.66, according to LaVonne Mumert, payroll administrator in Legislative Administrative Services.

    Accompanying the $88.66 is a subsistence payment of $123 a day. The subsistence rate is tied to a federal rate, which is why the Kansas rate climbed from $116 to $123 in October 2010, when the new federal fiscal year began, Mumert explained.

    In addition, legislators receive a taxable allowance of $7,083. This is meted out in 20 biweekly installments of $354.15, enabling legislators to receive checks throughout the year.

    Lawmakers receive the daily rate and subsistence when they participate in committee meetings during non-session months. Also, members in leadership receive varying amounts of increased compensation. Posts drawing additional pay, according to Mumert, are: Senate president, House speaker, Senate vice president, Speaker pro tem, majority and minority leaders and assistant majority and minority leaders, and chairmen of Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations committees.

    Up to new members.

    Freshmen entering the Legislature are given the option of joining KPERS.

    Regular employees do not have that option and must enroll in KPERS, said Kristen Basso, communications officer with KPERS.

    Former Senate President Richard “Dick” Bond, R-Overland Park, said he enrolled in KPERS when he entered the Legislature in 1987, and he didn’t know any legislator who didn’t sign up.

    In 2010, according to KPERS, there were employer contributions made on behalf of 149 legislators.

    The next decision for the new legislator, according to Basso, is to elect how much compensation to include in their KPERS’ calculation: only the daily rate, the daily rate plus subsistence; the daily rate, subsistence, and non-session allowance; or any combination of those incomes.

    “So basically they can have a pretty small salary or they can have a pretty large salary,” Basso said, to determine the benefit.

    Individual retirement choices and benefits are confidential data, but Basso said, “The tendency is generally when they choose to be part of KPERS, they put it all in, anything that’s possible.”

    Annualized pay

    The Legislature opens its 90-day session on the second Monday of January. Typically, the Legislature concludes its regular session in early April and returns later in the month for wrap-up work that can take anywhere from less than a week to more than two weeks.

    To determine a legislator’s KPERS benefit, his pay is annualized, treated as if the job entailed full-time employment and full-time pay.

    “Even though they only really earn that for several months of the year, they get credit for earning it all year long,” Basso said.

    For the legislator listing all income – the daily rate, subsistence and allowance – this is how annualization is calculated:

    * $88.66 (daily rate) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $32,981.52.

    * $123 (subsistence) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $45,756.

    * $7,083 non-session allowance.

    Altogether, that equals $85,820.52, and that’s the pay figure that would be used for that legislator retiring now.

    The Senate president and House speaker are at the top of the pay scale, and annualized pay for those posts could be as high as $99,859.74, depending on their enrollment choices, Mumert said.

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