The Grays Harbor Public Utility District Board of Commissioners have approved the utility budget for 2018. The $123.3 million spending plan was passed unanimously by the board during their Nov. 20th meeting.
“This budget is about stability,” says PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan. “Our staff has put together a plan that puts the emphasis on maintaining the strength, safety and reliability of the PUD system and service and finding a practical cost which makes that mission possible. I believe the budget we passed does that.”
“For several years, utility reliability has been steadily improving,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “That reliability is born from prioritizing certain projects and making sure that they are funded for capital improvements.”
The budget includes $8.2 million in capital expenses, or renewal and replacement of the utility system infrastructure. The largest portion of PUD spending is $69.8-million in power costs, or 57% of the utility budget. While the utility will see some savings due to a reworking of their contract to purchase surplus power from Sierra Pacific Industries, a projected 5.4% increase in Bonneville Power Administration costs means the utility will increase rates beginning in April.
“At this point we are planning a three-percent increase,” says Ward. “However, by waiting to implement it we allow ourselves time to monitor factors like temperatures and load growth which may reduce the size of the increase.”
At the end of the year, the PUD anticipates an ending fund reserve of $7.9-million. That total is below district goals, but is moving in the right direction.
“Sound practice says we would maintain a minimum three month reserve,” said Ward. “When you consider that it costs roughly $10-million a month to operate the utility, you can see we are well short of that goal, but I feel that continued conservative financial planning will allow the utility to maintain a solid financial base.”