Winning Ways Special - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas 
Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Please Make Your Voice Heard on the Austin Energy Rate Increase
by Tom Goodman
November 18, 2011

Dear Members and Friends of Hillcrest Baptist Church,

I need you to write to our mayor and members of our city council right away.

Austin Energy is making plans to reclassify houses of worship to bear the commercial electric rate.  If Austin Energy's proposed new rate structure is implemented in its current form, many Austin congregations will experience a huge increase in their electric bills -- far greater than the planned increases for any of Austin Energy's other customer classes.

There are options available to the utility that would prevent the disproportionate burdening of faith communities.  Minimal changes to the rate design would give individual congregations flexibility to choose their rate class.  Alternatively, the utility could scale back its economic development spending or reduce its extremely generous reserve requirements, either of which would permit a reduction in rate increases -- not only for worship facilities but across every class of customer.

Because Austin Energy is a municipally owned utility, the Austin City Council must approve any changes to the utility's rate structure.  Austin Energy staff members have stated that it is the role of the City Council to mediate "community conflicts" such as disproportionate impacts on worship facilities, and they have encouraged us to take our concerns directly to City Council.  City Council is expected to make final decisions about the proposed rate structure very early in 2012.  The Council could approve the proposed structure; approve it with modifications; or reject it and send Austin Energy back to the drawing board.

At the end of this email, I have provided the contact information so you can make your voice heard on this matter.  Please write a letter or send an email today.  If you are eligible to vote for the mayor and City Council members, please indicate this.  Send a separate note to each, and ask for a reply.

Needless to say, such a radical increase on our energy bill would severely hamper our activities.  Pray for this increase to be turned down, and contact your elected leaders immediately.

Tom Goodman, Pastor
Hillcrest Baptist Church

Dear ______________,

Austin Energy will ask you to accept a radical rate increase on houses of worship.  I am writing to ask you to vote against this.

Unlike “commercial” entities, congregations cannot pass on increased costs to “customers” in the form a price increase on our goods and services.  When we have increased costs anywhere, we can only reduce programming to cover the new expense.

It’s not just our religious activities that will be impacted under the burden of this increase.  Hillcrest Baptist Church serves the community in other ways.  Will we have to turn down requests by AISD schools for the use of our facility?  Hill Elementary School, Murchison Middle School, and Anderson High School all use our facility throughout the year.  Will we have to turn down requests by the numerous neighborhood associations that use our facility for their membership meetings?  Will we have to reduce the number of children we serve in our basketball program?  A rate increase as radical as Austin Energy is imposing on congregations will mean that we will have to re-examine these requests for the use of our building.

A rate increase of this size just on congregations is an unacceptable burden, no matter how slowly the increase is implemented.  Since Austin Energy reports to the Mayor and Council, our elected officials, I ask you to protect congregations like mine from such a radical increase.

Thank you,

If you are eligible to vote for the mayor and City Council members, please indicate this.  Send a separate note to each, and ask for a reply.

Below you will find the email address of the mayor and city council members.  Letters and packages sent through the U.S. Postal Service may be mailed to:

City of Austin
Attn: name of intended recipient
P.O. Box 1088
Austin, Texas 78767-8865

Mayor - Lee Leffingwell
Phone: (512) 974-2250
Fax: (512) 974-2337

Place 1 - Council Member Chris Riley
Phone: (512) 974-2260
Fax: (512) 974-6075

Place 2 - Council Member Mike Martinez
Phone: (512) 974-2264
Fax: (512) 974-1887

Place 3 - Council Member Kathie Tovo
Phone: (512) 974-2255
Fax: (512) 974-1888

Place 4 - Council Member Laura Morrison
Phone: (512) 974-2258
Fax: (512) 974-1886

Place 5 - Council Member Bill Spelman
Phone: (512) 974-2256
Fax: (512) 974-7655

Mayor Pro Tern Sheryl Cole
Phone: (512) 974-2266
Fax: (512) 974-1890