GREEN BAY - The leaves are falling, the mercury is dropping and this year, Wisconsin Public Service says your monthly utility bill will rise.
"We're expecting an 8-10-percent increase in heating bills over the course of the winter - from the first of November to the end of March," explained Wisconsin Public Service spokesman Kerry Spees.
Spees says that's mostly because of the above-average temps that graced the early part of winter last year. WPS serves about 120,000 heating customers in Brown County alone.
"Natural gas prices are just about the same as they were, maybe up a tick this year and that will mean about $40 to $50 over the course of the winter," Spees said.
On Green Bay’s west side, Les Cline is cleaning up the piles of colorful leaves the changing seasons left in his front yard. Cline says he's not too concerned about the increase. He's on a plan that averages out his utility bill over the course of the year.
'It may vascillate, your cost, of one month to another,” explained Cline. “And this way, by being on a budget, it equalizes your payment plan."
According to an energy and fuels outlook report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nationwide, people who use natural gas to heat their homes will pay an average of $80 more this winter, compared to last winter.
The report projects the increase for several reasons: differences in natural gas prices in different parts of the country, different types of weather, changes in natural gas production and pipeline capacity, as well as regulatory constraints that pass changes in price to customers.
State heating assistance funding down
If you rely on state help to pay your heating bills, you're going to be receiving less of it.
The Wisconsin Department of Administration helped about 221,000 households in Wisconsin with their monthly heating bills last year. This year it expects to help thousands less - about 215,000 - because of a projected decrease in federal dollars. Last year, the DOA says the state received about $98 million for heating assistance; this year it's expected to be about $70 million.
Now available through May 15, heating assistance programs gave an average of $337 in benefits, to households that qualify, last season. This year, that number is expected to be around $227. Eligibility is based on household income, size and heating costs.
"Those benefits are really based upon the number of people in your home,” explained DOA spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis in a phone interview with FOX 11. “So, some people may actually receive more of a benefit than that.”
Heating assistance programs are administered through county social service offices, tribal governments and various non-profits.
WPS urges customers who are receiving heating assistance to stay in touch with the utility company to stay in touch with the utility company to ensure no problems come up in the spring with your heating bill.
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