The 2020 budget for the Okanogan County PUD was finalized at the Dec. 16 meeting of the board of commissioners, including $58.3 million in revenue, $48.9 million in expenditures, $4 million in debt service and a capital budget of $13.5 million.
To reach that revenue amount, the district will pursue a 2 percent increase in revenue; how that will affect the different rate classes (residential, general service, irrigation, etc.) will be determined through a rate-setting process in early 2020.
The budget also cuts expenses, including no longer staffing the Omak office. The office will still have a drop box for payments, which will be collected daily, but will not have an attendant beginning April 1. By not hiring a currently open customer service position and not staffing the Omak office, the district will save $84,000 annually. The current customer service staff member at Omak would still work for the district.
Various departments across the district also cut back on their budgets, in many cases by delaying projects or equipment purchases.
Commissioners expressed their appreciation for staff efforts to cut the budget, which originally called for a 3 percent revenue increase (4 percent was suggested in the new 10-year equity management plan).
Commissioner Scott Vejraska said times are tough in all the community: orchardists are losing $2-5 a box and cattlemen haven’t seen numbers this low in many years. He said everywhere he goes he hears the people ask why the PUD is doing this again.
Commissioner Bill Colyar said he understands the difficult economic times, but also that poor maintenance of the system can lead to a degraded electrical grid. He said he couldn’t see a way around raising rates while still meeting the district’s needs.
Commissioner Jerry Asmussen said there will be discussion about the revenue increase and exactly what that will look like, as the district needs to meet its upcoming costs and debt coverage.
The budget was approved 2-1, with Commissioner Vejraska voting against.
In other business, the board:
- Heard reports from Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg. On the power side, wholesale sales were $139,402 over budget for November, a positive trend in a hard year. Retail sales were also up in October, $463,720 over the budgeted amount. For broadband, users continue to increase, with 3,010 on the system – 475 of those are direct fiber, the other 2,535 are on wireless.
- Passed a motion authorizing the general manager to issue a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Notice of Action for the Mitigated Determination of Non-significance for the Enloe Dam safety repair and maintenance project and proceed with the project.
- Heard from Jim Rowland, lobbyist for the utility, about issues that will likely arise in the 60-day 2020 legislative session. Rowland said some carbon-related issues will arise again, as well as broadband expansion. He suggested the board consider forming some legislative policies for 2020.
- Approved Resolution 1702, declaring surplus several obsolete items from the broadband department.
- Approved the 2020 tree trimming contract with Asplundh Tree Expert Co., in an amount not to exceed $800,000. The program reduces the danger of outages caused by trees or branches falling on power lines and is part of our fire prevention plan.
- Approved Resolution 1699, establishing a vehicle replacement fund. The fund will be maintained by monthly deposits and proceeds from surplus vehicle sales.