Echoing the sentiments of commissions, boards and councils throughout the county, the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a “hold the line” budget for 2016. The $89.3 million Operations and Maintenance budget maintains current staff levels and represents only 1% growth, while the $7.8 million capital budget maintains system maintenance and reliability efforts while coming in nearly $2.5-million below the 2015 total.
“While this budget lacks glitz and glamour, it has enough substance to see the Grays Harbor PUD through 2016.” said Commission President Russ Skolrood. “We asked our department heads to make some hard choices and limit expenses wherever possible. The document we have approved does that.”
The budget approved on Monday afternoon assumes a weaker than usual secondary power market (where the utility sells its surplus power) and a warmer winter, meaning less energy use by PUD customers. Those factors are expected to contribute to lower revenue for the utility and create the need for a rate increase in 2016.
“We will be asking for an increase in the coming year, but it would be premature to speculate on the size of that increase. It’s not something that anyone wants to do, but the market and climate factors are having a huge impact on the utility’s bottom line,” said Skolrood. “In the coming months, PUD staff will examine the available options, including the results of a cost of service study and determine early next year what increase will be necessary.”
In addition to the O&M budget, the commissioners also approved a $7.8-million capital budget that will include:
- $4.5-million in transmission and distribution system improvements and maintenance.
- $1.6-million in substation maintenance and replacement work.
- $1.6-million in general plant projects including fleet maintenance, facilities, tools, IT and communications.
“At this point we are focusing on power system equipment that is breaking or broken and putting our attention where it is needed most,” said PUD Engineering Manager Schuyler Burkhart.
“This is a capital budget that keeps the utility in line with the markets, rates and other factors that determine the revenue we will have to pay for improvement and maintenance projects,” said PUD General Manager Dave Ward. “I feel that the hard work put in by our staff on system maintenance and vegetation management over the last two years, will allow the utility to absorb the smaller than normal capital budget and continue our mission of providing safe, affordable and reliable services to our customers.”