Okanogan County PUD commissioners continue to discuss setting rates to meet the 2020 budget, which was approved with a 2 percent revenue increase. Although the budget was approved, commissioners still need to pass a separate resolution to adjust individual rates per customer class.
The district has undergone a cost of service analysis, to determine which classes of customers (residential, industrial, irrigation, etc.) are covering their actual costs, and which might be over or under their costs.
The study, conducted by consultants with FCS Group, shows that some classes are below their actual costs, whereas other classes are within their range of costs.
In order to move toward a more equitable rate structure, the commissioners discussed making rate adjustments to bring classes closer to cost of service over the next 5-10 years. The commissioners also discussed slowly phasing out the two-tiered residential rate, which charges customers a higher rate for heavier power usage.
The commissioners will continue to discuss the possible rate adjustments at the Feb. 24 meeting, anticipating passing a resolution to adjust rates in March, and new rates possibly becoming effective in April.
Increased infrastructure needs, including replacing aging power lines and other equipment, are the largest drivers behind needing to increase revenue for the PUD. More information, including the full 2020 budget, is available on the PUD website.
In other business the board:
- Directed staff to continue researching the community solar project, and come back to the board with quotes and other detailed information. The board then can vote on the project moving forward. Participants have to pay the costs upfront, then get their money back through a state incentive and bill credit. Without enough participants, the project will not be built.
- Heard from Director of Power Resources and Broadband Ron Gadeberg that 2019 power sales ended $3.4 million under budget. Mild temperatures overall contributed to lower retail sales, and a brutal market drove purchase prices higher than expected in February and March, costs that the utility could not recover over the rest of the year. Wholesale sales for January started the year off in the black, with $46,000 more sales than budgeted.
- Approved the first reading of the district wage and salary program, which would help budgeting processes for 2021 if approved. Staff analyzed comparable market wages and salaries, and proposed adjustments to the policy that would allow non-union staff to move toward their established salary midpoint depending on their performance.
- Heard from Purchasing and Facilities Manager Roy Schwilke that the district has started a new recycling program for metals, saving staff time for the scrapping. He said that Brewster and Oroville offices will see some cosmetic office improvements this year.
- Heard from Community Relations Coordinator Sheila Corson that she has been involved in several educational outreach events with more to come, as well as a new column and blog for the district to share information. She also relayed updates from the legislative session, focusing on some bills that could affect the PUD.