Customers question electric company's billing practices

Residents upset with high bills from Floresville Electric Light and Power System; Two bills due in one month

FLORESVILLE, Texas – One woman's frustrated post to a Facebook group quickly snowballed into something bigger when she took to social media to complain about her high electric bill.

Floresville resident Brooke Cranshaw soon realized she wasn't the only one questioning her power company's billing practices.

"The first year or so our bill was maintained at about $300 a month," Cranshaw said. "Over the past two years, I'd say it's steadily increasing to the point where we're getting $500 to $700 a month bills."

Cranshaw thinks she's paying too much to power her Wilson County home and she can't figure out why. 

She said she tries her best to conserve energy but nothing seems to lower her bills.

Cranshaw admits she and her husband missed one payment after paying for two funerals this year and the company hit them with a $700 security fee because of their lowered credit rating. 

Cranshaw said she tried to work out payment arrangements with Floresville Electric Light and Power System but they wouldn't budge.

"We asked could they work with us because $700 after paying for funerals, we can't come up with that much money. They said, 'No, pay it or we cut off your electricity,'" Cranshaw said. "We had to borrow money from family and friends to keep our power going on."

Frustrated, Cranshaw took to a local Facebook group and asked others to weigh in.

"It really took off, it was crazy," Cranshaw said. "It's been really refreshing to see the community as a whole has a problem with it, so you don't feel so alone."

In a short period of time, Cranshaw had over 100 responses from other customers complaining about their high bills, and in some cases getting two bills in one month. A second thread on the topic also went viral.

Ryan Zuehl said she paid just $77 last October to power her 800-square-foot home. This year it was $138 and that was after she replaced her windows and made other energy efficient upgrades to her home.

"I think I'm being over charged," Zuehl said. "I live in a 860-square-foot house by myself. I'm gone from work 12 hours a day and my electric bills are four times higher than people living in four times bigger houses with more people."

Cathe Skrobarcek was upset she received two bills this month, each for over $300.

"So now for the month of November I'll be paying $626.75," Skrobarcek said.

Floresville Electric Light and Power System General Manager Kyle Dicke said the utility recently did a cost of service study and while there was a system-wide rate increase of 2 percent, it resulted in lower rates for residential customers.

"We found, based on our cost of service study, our residential customers for many years had been subsidizing our commercial customers and we felt that was unfair. So we froze or reduced our residential rate class and then we absorbed the rate increase in our other rate classes," Dicke said. "Our residential customers actually saw a rate decrease."

Dicke said in an effort to modernize the utility, they also went to a new billing cycle.

Instead of charging all 15,300 customers once a month, the service area has been divided into four areas, each with their own billing cycle. The transition to the new system is causing most customers to get two bills in a short period of time.

"Instead of reading meters for 20 or 22 days and holding the bills, processing the bills and then mailing them out, we're essentially going to read meters for a week, and then send bills, and then read the next set of meters for a week, and then send those customers their bills," Dicke explained. "People are still only going to get billed once a month. Going forward, you're never going to be double-billed for the same electricity twice."

Dicke acknowledged it may be difficult for some customers to cover the cost of two bills so close together, but said the utility would work with its customers to make payment arrangements.

"We have many mechanisms in place where we can work with customers, extend them past the due date. We do give more leeway to customers who have a more positive payment history with the utility," Dicke said. "There is no good time to make a change to cycle billing, we just try to find the least bad time. We empathize and understand, just unfortunately this is a necessary evil to get the utility to a more modern situation where we need to be."

About the Author: