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November 30, 2010

In the Black . . .three words that are music to the ears of Chelan County PUD Commissioners as they prepare to adopt next year’s budget. At their Monday afternoon meeting Commissioners were presented with a final proposed budget that ends up about 271-thousand dollars in the black.

Commissioners were told that the improved budget forecast is due to more spending cuts including leaving several staff positions unfilled and clarifying the timing of some fish-related work. The proposed budget has the hourly equivalent of 11 fewer full-time staff positions, as well as reduced overtime. This will be the third year in a row of keeping the PUD in preservation mode and restricting spending. The Utilities financial woes have been caused by several years of reduced snowpack and dismal wholesale power revenues. During that time the PUD has reduced its staff, implemented unpaid furlough days, frozen pay increases for many employees until 2012 and cut spending by $27 million in 2009. But what happens if the District’s revenue picture improves ? That was a question posed to General manager, John Janney by Commissioner Randy Smith . . (Click above icon for audio)

Helping put the combined budget into the black is a 2-percent rate increase that was approved by commissioners, effective Dec. 1 of this year, that will help cover the PUD’s share of costs for the fiber-optic grant work. Also included is extending a temporary 9-percent surcharge through December of 2011. It had been scheduled to expire at the end of April. The budget also includes 5-percent increases for water and wastewater customers, effective April 1.
The combined District spending budget for 2011 of approximately $291 million is almost $17 million below this year’s budget.

One bright spot on the horizon is the end of numerous long-term power sales contracts at Rocky Reach Dam in November 2011. The PUD will regain a larger share of power production at that time and expects to see a jump in wholesale power revenues along with it. No new bond issues are expected in 2011, but Boyd said if conditions are favorable, the PUD would still look at refinancing existing debt at better terms.

The final public hearing is slated for next Monday’s board meeting when Commissioners are slated to adopt next year’s budget.

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