LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- At the center of a proposed utility rate increase is a plan that would increase base charges that all LG&E electric and gas customers would have to pay.

Many customers rejected the proposal Tuesday night at a Kentucky Public Service Commission hearing in Louisville. 

"If you do this you are really, really hurting children," one objector said.

The electric monthly service charge would increase from $10.75 to $22. For gas, it would jump from $13.50 to $24.

"For LG&E electric customers, they would see an increase of $9.65 a month on their monthly bill," spokesperson Natasha Collins said. "For LG&E natural gas customers, they would see an increase of about $2.99 a month."

LG&E would then decrease the usage charge and decrease the delivery fee for gas.

"The bulk of that is so we can improve safety, reduce outage times and enhance service to customers overall," Collins said.

The company says it needs the additional funds to pay for improvements to modernize the system and that the fee change may actually benefit people with low incomes.

"What we see is that customers who may be potentially low income or fixed income ... the energy use or energy consumption is typically a bit higher," Collins said.

LG&E says that will offset much of the cost and allow for less fluctuations in the total bill throughout the year, but many customers disagree.  

"To do it on the backs of people that can least afford it, the old and the struggling, that is not acceptable," said Karen Fink, adding that she's concerned about what the increase would mean for many residents' monthly budgets.

"It's one thing if you can conserve your usage. It's another thing if it's an automatic increase that is the basic service for having utilities in your house."

She wants the company to come up with a different proposal before any decision is made.

"This is morally reprehensible that they would do those kinds of fundraising," Fink said.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will begin formal hearings May 9 in Frankfort.

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