JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Disconnections resumed Wednesday JEA customers behind on payments, after a seven-week moratorium.
According to JEA - 482 households were supposed to have power shut off Wednesday morning. 358 of those families were able to make arrangements to keep the electricity on, but 124 homes are now left in the dark.
News4JAX has been following the disconnections when they began on Tuesday. What you may not have heard is that they are coming at a time when JEA’s board just approved raises and bonuses for employees.
Humphrey Palmore was told his lights were being turned off Wednesday because his bill was overdue. He reached out to a friend for help who gave him more than $300 to keep the power on.
After he paid he learned that JEA just approved bonuses and pay increases for employees
“I think it’s a bunch of crap,” Palmore said. “We are here paying for your fuel bill that same money you’re giving for the raise can go towards the fuel bill. That’s the reason why you increased our bills.”
The jump in our JEA bills is coming from the fuel charge – it’s what JEA passes on to you in order to pay for natural gas and other fuels to produce electricity. Those costs have skyrocketed this year.
During its monthly board meeting Tuesday -- JEA approved its plan to pay more than 2000 employees a bonus in the next year. It’s called the pay for performance plan. If certain goals are met employees will get extra cash in their pay checks. The total for all employees is nearly $10 million, up nearly $1 million from last year.
It wasn’t only bonuses approved, JEA also okayed a 3 year salary increase for its unionized employees – as much as 9% in the first year.
Those contracts were negotiated some time ago. News4JAX asked JEA CEO Jay Stowe about the timing of the pay increases and bonuses.
“There are lots of places that are having trouble keeping employees so we want to make sure we can keep and retain really qualified employees that can support the reliability and resilience of the system so we are having to balance all of the different items,” Stowe said.
Stowe adds that JEA had a run up on fuel cost that has caused customer bills to increase. He said JEA expect those to start coming down. “We’re going to manage the system the best way we can -- we have to take care of both the employees and the customers and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of balancing those things,” Stowe said.
News4JAX also reached out to several of the unions representing JEA employees. We were told they understand the situation customers face and that is why they have donated over $10 thousand to a program to help customers in need
The pay raises JEA approved will now have to go to the Jacksonville city council at the end of October.