LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakeland Electric customers will have to add a new cost increase to their budget as the city-owned utility raises its fuel charge, effective July 1.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to the pinch everyone’s feeling in their pocketbook but this has gone beyond our ability to absorb,” said Cathryn Lacy, Lakeland Electric’s utility marketing manager.

The Lakeland city commission approved the rate increase Monday evening.

The rate will increase from $.04 per kWh to $.06 per kWh. This is equal to $60 per 1,000 kWh, the highest fuel charge since 2009.

“If you’re wondering what that means for a customer, that’s about $20 a month,” said Lacy.

Lakeland Electric cites escalating natural gas market prices as the reason this had to happen now.

“We would have had to draw into our day’s cash on hand which makes us not as financially stable. We want to be here for the long haul for our customers,” said Lacy.

Lacy said air conditioning and hot water heaters are the biggest drivers of energy bills. She recommends setting the air conditioner to 78 degrees to help with energy prices.

Lakeland Electric will also do free at-home energy audits by request.

“Every penny counts. You don’t want to make no mistakes,” said Lenny Bonanno, who owns Purple Onion Deli Grill in Lakeland with his wife.

Bonanno says prices for potato chips, to-go containers and fryer oil, among other items, have increased.

According to him, the utility bill at his business is already double what it is at home.

“I know it’s high. So if it’s going to go even higher than we might have to raise our prices again, which I don’t like to do,” said Bonanno.