The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have adopted a 2015 budget that maintains current staffing and internal expense levels while making investments in system safety and reliability. The $118.1 million spending plan was unanimously approved by the commissioners at their Monday meeting.
“This is a sustainable budget that sets the PUD on solid ground heading into 2015,” said Board President Russ Skolrood. “Throughout Grays Harbor, our customers are making the tough choices that allow them to live within their means. They expect the same thing from their PUD and the budget we adopted today allows us to do that.”
The budget achieves the PUD Strategic Plan goal of keeping annual budget growth below 2% and does so without borrowing money to fund $10.2 million in capital expenses. These improvements to the PUD’s power system infrastructure and general plant include replacing aging poles, the addition of new power and cable lines and the purchase of new transformers and equipment. Combined with the construction of access roads, substation work and computer and vehicle upgrades, the system upgrades will allow the PUD to continue to provide safe and reliable power to it’s over 48,000 customers.
Rising power supply costs will necessitate a 3% increase in customer rates beginning in July of 2015. Over the next six months, PUD staff will be working to find a way to absorb the increased power costs in the budget, meaning the amount approved by the Commissioners will likely decrease.
“Our staff has and will continue to prioritize PUD spending as we move into 2015, ensuring that we spend money only on the projects we need to fulfill our responsibility to our customers,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “Between now and July we will closely examine and scrutinize our expenses to reduce the size of the increase we will be asking our Commissioners to approve.”
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners will be presented with a 2015 budget that maintains 2014 staffing, travel and training levels for the coming year. The commissioners will consider a resolution adopting the budget at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 17th.
The 2015 budget will total $121.2-million. It will include power supply costs, capital improvements to the PUD power system infrastructure and general plant, state and city taxes and personnel costs. The budget will also feature a projected rate increase of 3%.
“We’re holding the line in 2015,” said PUD Board of Commissioners President Russ Skolrood. “What we have before us is a balanced spending plan for the coming year, taking into account the need for system maintenance and reliability, responsible staffing levels and increased power supply costs.”
The increase in power costs from the Bonneville Power Administration will mean an increase in customer rates beginning in July of 2015. While the increase is currently expected to be three-percent, PUD staff is hopeful that cost adjustments over the next six months will reduce the total amount.
“Power supply purchases total 61% of our budget. The price we are paying for power will increase in the coming year, meaning we will have to ask for a small increase in the rates we charge our customers,” said Commissioner Dave Timmons. “No one wants to increase rates and our staff has done a fantastic job of reducing costs and prioritizing district spending. I am confident they will find a way to absorb any additional costs and if necessary ask for an increase that has the smallest possible impact on our customers.”
While many districts introduce rate increases at the beginning of the year, the Grays Harbor PUD will postpone any needed increases until the summer, when customer power costs are traditionally lower. In addition, the PUD has stabilized rates and costs to be able to proceed with smaller, annual increases that accurately reflect the power market.
“We have instituted long term planning that should serve the district and our customers well in the future,” said Commissioner Arie Callaghan. “Rate increases are an unfortunate necessity due to the power market, but the plan we have created allows us to remain on an even keel, rather than seeing the size of increases go up and down.”
There are some aspects of the 2015 budget which are still unknown, namely the final costs associated with the Harbor Paper clean-up. While those expenses are planned to be covered in 2015, they are not anticipated to increase customer rates.
“While this is a very conservative budget, I really feel that the Grays Harbor PUD has turned a financial corner and is headed toward a much brighter future,” said Skolrood. “We are funding our budget though the revenue we generate rather than borrowing money. We are managing our power system to improve reliability and safety and we are living within our means. That is a trend I like very much.”
Grays Harbor PUD Commissioner Russ Skolrood has a sizeable lead in the race for PUD Commissioner, District Three. Skolrood, defending his seat for the first time, received 57% of the vote. Challenger John Straka received 42%. The next vote tally will be on Friday afternoon.
Affordable improvements to safety and reliability highlight the Capital Budget being considered by the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners.
The PUD has allocated $10.2 million for improvements and upgrades to the PUD's distribution, substation and telecommunication infrastructure; a system at the heart of the utility services provided to over 48,000 customers in Grays Harbor County.
"Everywhere you look, people are making the tough choices that allow them to live within their means. The Grays Harbor PUD is no different. This is a budget driven by what the PUD needs, not what we want," said Commission President Russ Skolrood. "In the past months, our staff has been working tirelessly to determine which projects will immediately serve the safety and reliability goals that are at the heart of the Grays Harbor PUD's mission. Those are the projects that we have chosen to fund in the coming year."
"Our staff was asked to prioritize based on quality service and affordability," said General Manager Dave Ward. "Providing safe and reliable utility services to our customer is the most important job we have and the Capital Budget that they have worked to create allows the PUD to fulfill that responsibility within the means available to us."
The largest portion of the Capital Budget is the $4.2 million Distribution Budget that includes replacing aging poles, the addition of new power and cable lines and the purchase of new transformers.
The $2.3 million General Plant Budget will cover $427 thousand in communication, phone and radio projects, $550 thousand for new bucket trucks for the Quinault and Elma service areas and $770 thousand for the installation and implementation of new computer and IT systems.
The $1.8 million Substation Budget will include over $1 million for new transformers and microwave equipment, circuit breaker replacements and upgrades and miscellaneous system improvements.
The $1.7 million Transmission Budget will include nearly $1 million in pole and line replacement and maintenance work, $180 thousand to replace poles and address line clearance on a portion of the East Hoquiam Road, an area heavily impacted by outages and power surges, and $175 thousand to construct access roads allowing PUD crews easier and quicker access to transmission lines.
Resolutions approving the Capital and Operations and Maintenance budgets will be considered by the PUD Board of Commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 17th.
As temperatures drop, power bills tend to rise. For many of us, our fall and winter PUD bills can increase significantly because we are using more electricity to heat our homes. Aging windows, leaky ductwork and inefficient heaters can cause heat to flow out of your home and money to flow out of your wallet. Your Grays Harbor PUD has incentives available to help you save energy and reduce heating costs.
The PUD Energy Services Department has all the information you need on rebates available for your heating system and weatherization projects. Improvements to your home, such as duct sealing, insulation, new windows, energy efficient heat pumps and programmable thermostats, can lower your electric bill and make your home more comfortable. Not to mention, rebates help lower the cost of the project.
It is important to note that a preliminary audit of the home is required before moving ahead with the projects. In addition, rebate applications and contractor bids need to be submitted PRIOR to any work being done. To qualify for rebates, the primary source of heat in your home must be electric.
For more information and to schedule your energy audit, give Energy Services a call at 360-538-6383. As the temperature drops you want to keep your home warm. Your Grays Harbor PUD is here to help you do it efficiently.