Faith Leaders Speak About Proposed Austin Electrical Rates
This morning, leaders in the faith community joined Texas Impact in addressing the proposed changes in Austin's electric rates and their potential impacts on local faith communities. During a press conference at the Austin City Hall, a diverse group of Texas religious leaders spoke out about how the proposed rate changes could negatively affect local congregations.
Rev. John Wright of First United Methodist Church, Austin, described the rate increase as a penalty for faith communities meeting the needs of Austin citizens: "We feel like this rate proposal will penalize churches that are struggling and are in partnership with the city of Austin to serve the least, the last, the lost, the most vulnerable people in the city of Austin."
Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones, District Superintendent of the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, argued that the proposed rate increases would directly affect the ability for local churches to minister to their local community. Rev. Jones said, "what we will increase for lights and water here will decrease our ability to do what we are in business for, and that is to spend ourselves on behalf of others, pure and simple."
Rev. Larry Coulter of Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church agrees: "we believe we are uniquely suited in the neighborhoods where we have our worshipping communities to serve those people and because of that we realize that each dollar we spend on utilities takes away from our ability to service that as well."
Rabbi Steven Folberg of Congregation Beth Israel commented on the impacts the proposed rate increased could have on coalition work in Austin, citing his congregation's involvement in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. He remarked, "everything is connected to everything else and we want to keep being able to provide these services, [but] we are really concerned about this rate increase for that reason."
Rev. Tim Tutt, pastor of United Christian Church and Vice President of Texas Impact's Board of Directors, shared that concern: "How unfortunate it will be if someone knocks on our door looking for help and we can't help them because we have to pay our own increased utility rates."
The speakers expressed their concern about the direct effects that Austin's proposed electrical rate increases would have on local ministries in the community. Rev. Coulter said, "the basic human services that are provided by our faith communities around the city are absolutely essential for this community to serve its poorest of the poor. Any time a rate increase goes in... it causes churches to have to rethink how they deliver those services." Rev. Jones argued, "we will literally be choosing between lights for worship, which is our heart, and ministry to community, which is our soul."
Rev. Wright said, "We are in a partnership with the city of Austin to serve the most needy in Austin and yet then we're going to be slapped with a 48% increase in order to do that... sometimes you get to the point where you simply can't do that anymore."
For more information on tonight's public hearing on Austin Energy's proposed electric rates, visit Our Power Austin's information page.