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Council Passes Austin Energy Rate Hike, Short-Term Rental Changes

Austin City Council members approved a rate increase for Austin Energy customers last night.

The council heard public comment before voting unanimously infavor of the increases.

It’s been a months-long process in coming to an agreement, but council member Mike Martinez says it was necessary to find the right plan.

“It’s not perfect. Not everyone got what they wanted. But it’s way better than what we had in December when we started this process, so I think it was worth every minute that we spent on it," said Martinez.

The council has held more than a dozen work sessions and hearings on the rate hikes since December. And while Mayor Lee Leffingwell said it seems no one likes the plan completely, council member Laura Morrison said all of that input has made the plan better.

“The fact that we own Austin Energy means that we get to integrate our community values in the way that we run the city, and there’s no doubt that we’ve been able to do that with this," said Morrison. "And it’s a veritable love fest for a rate increase here tonight."

Austin Energy customers will start seeing increases in October.

The rate changes will be broken up into five tiers based on how much energy a customer uses.

The council also held a public hearing on proposed regulation changes for short-term rentals – including how many can operate within a certain area.

The ordinance change would affect people who rent out their homes sporadically for events like South by Southwest, as well as homes that the owners do not live in and that are rented out more often. Council held off implementing stricter regulations on the latter properties – coined “commercial short term rentals” – including a call for an outright ban.

Council members voted 5-2 to give preliminary approval of the changes. Council members Morrison and Kathie Tovo were the dissenting voters.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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