WENATCHEE, WA – Chelan County PUD commissioners approved the utility’s budget for next year that puts reinvesting in key generating assets and people as the top priority within the strategic plan focus areas, followed by continuing to pay down debt and extending Public Power Benefit spending that includes more expansion of the broadband network.
Board members took action Monday after holding hearings to gather public comment on the spending plan. The 2017 budget also keeps general electric rates the same for the fifth straight year.
“It has been a pleasure and privilege to be involved with this utility and the budget process we’ve been through,” said Commission President Randy Smith, noting that Chelan PUD’s financial strengthen is enviable. “We (commissioners) take a lot of pride in what is being done by staff to do the right thing for the people of Chelan County.”
The 2017 budget forecasts $85 million in net revenues. Overall, the budget sets expenditures at $341 million, including $52 million in net debt reduction, which is about 14 percent more than 2016. It keeps the District on track to be below the target of 35 percent debt to equity ratio by 2019 – substantially improved, considering the debt ratio was at 65 percent in 2012.
About 80 percent of the District’s revenues are generated from surplus power sales in the wholesale market.
It was noted earlier that the spending plan continues the long view outlined during strategic planning by taking advantage of the good years in the wholesale market to prepare for the future, even as prices continue to fall.
Next year’s budget proposes spending on major capital projects of $97 million consistent with strategic priorities to get revenue-producing assets like dam generating units into great shape. As debt has been reduced, the PUD is in the position to pay for the work with cash.
In other business Monday, commissioners:
· Reviewed Public Power Benefit spending for 2015 and 2016 and looked ahead to projects planned for 2017. About $5.2 million of the $8 million allocated by commissioners was spent to complete projects and studies during the first two years of the program identified as a priority by customer-owners in the most recent strategic plan. Commissioners reviewed project details at the Oct. 17 and Nov. 21 meetings when they agreed with a staff recommendation that the splash pad and Visitor Center projects be placed on hold until possible federal legislation and/or regulatory action is taken to address “early action” spending on hydro projects in advance of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license renewal. The board budgeted $4 million for 2017 including an allocation of $2.1 million to continue broadband network expansion in Cashmere, Chelan, Leavenworth, Manson and Sunnyslope. Also allocated for 2017 is $71, 000 to continue parking passes for PUD parks run by the state and $30,000 for a pilot of free camping at Beebe Bridge Park. Commissioners said they will consider options at the next board meeting for closing out funding of the initial round of projects.