The town of Williamsport is asking for a 9.91 percent increase in its retail electricity rate.
But, when combined with a wholesale rate decrease already in effect, the net effect for customers would be lower electricity bills.
Mayor James G. McCleaf II said Williamsport's wholesale rate to buy electricity from Allegheny Energy, now known as FirstEnergy, dropped 12 percent starting on July 1.
If the Maryland Public Service Commission approves the requested 9.91 percent retail rate increase, Williamsport customers still would pay about 2 percent less than before, factoring in the wholesale rate decrease, said David Downes, the chief executive officer of Downes Associates in Salisbury, Md., an electrical engineering firm hired by the town.
The town passes the wholesale power purchase cost onto its customers. Additional money to run the electricity system is built into the retail rate the town charges.
A 9.91 percent retail rate increase would bring an additional $173,815, according to the town's filing.
A briefing sheet said the town "has operated at a significant loss over the past two fiscal years ...."
However, the requested increase doesn't sit well with a number of town residents who signed a petition opposing it.
When George Groff saw a notice about the possible increase, "I looked at that, and I told my wife, 'I've had enough of this,'" he said Friday.
Groff, his wife, Jean and about five other people helped collect more than 200 signatures on a petition, which was sent to the PSC.
The town's application said Williamsport hasn't increased its retail rate in at least three decades, although it's not clear exactly how long it's been. There's evidence that the town's tariff, or state-approved pricing system, was changed in 1979, but that might not have been to the rate itself, Downes said.
Groff said residents want to know how the town has been spending taxpayers' money.
A chart included in the application shows that Williamsport has one of the lowest residential retail rates in Maryland — $85.34 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.
Thurmont and Hagerstown, which also buy electricity from FirstEnergy, are at $94.96 and $95.67, respectively.
Customers of Potomac Edison, formerly known as Allegheny Power, are charged $101.47, while customers of other electric companies pay more, the chart shows.
Groff said the rate comparison isn't fair because it doesn't show the purchase power price.
McCleaf said the town expects its wholesale rate with FirstEnergy to drop another 15 percent in 2013.
The town is holding a public meeting on the proposed rate increase at the fire hall on Nov. 14, after the regular town council meeting, which will start at 6:30 p.m.
The PSC also will hold a hearing on the request in Williamsport. As of Friday, a date for that hearing hadn't been scheduled.