Tenants get short break on BGE bills

Some Annapolis renters start paying in Oct., not Sept.

August 11, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Hoping to prepare tenants for the blow of paying for some of their electricity use, the Annapolis Housing Authority has pushed back the starting date a month, to Oct. 1.

The authority, which overseees 10 public housing communities, is holding a series of meetings this month to inform residents about how they will be billed and how they can conserve energy.

Trudy McFall, chairwoman of the authority's board of commissioners, said yesterday that some residents had only rumblings about the impending change.

"It's going to cause a hardship. There are no winners in this situation," McFall said. "We're going to have to share the pain, and it's going to be difficult. For our residents, it's a very serious time."

The authority has been struggling to repay its mounting $600,000 debt to BGE, even as rates increased and federal funding was cut. Last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development stopped giving the housing authority "make-up" payments to cover any shortfall between federal electricity allotments and the housing authority's bill.

Meanwhile, BGE rates increased last month by 15 percent for about 1 million customers in the region.

Residents do not pay now for their utility use; the authority picks up the tab. The bill from May 2005 to April 2006 was $742,000 for electricity and $918,000 for gas.

A study prepared for the authority in June by TA Engineering, a Frederick-based company, found utility bills drop about 15 percent when people become aware of how much money they are spending on electricity.

The company recommended "utility allotments" based on apartment size, demographics or the residents, and HUD guidelines. Utility allowances will cover major and minor appliances, not air conditioning.

Residents will pay for any use beyond their allotments directly to BGE or the housing authority, depending on what property they live in and whether their unit is metered.

The authority initially planned to institute the changes Sept. 1. Even now, exactly how much residents will have to pay remains uncertain. For now, many are bracing themselves for the additional expense.

"I would have to knock out something else to pay it," said Norma Nutter, who lives in Harbour House.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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