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Okanogan County PUD commissioners and staff continue to discuss the 2023 proposed budget, including some long-term planning and possible rate changes ahead.

The public hearing on the budget is now open, and the first session was kicked off with a presentation of an equity management plan from Sergey Tarasov of FCS Group. The plan proposes directions in the PUD’s financial management to achieve certain goals and stay financially healthy over the next five years. Some of those guidelines include transitioning the residential two-tier rates to a single rate by 2025 and funding more capital projects from revenue to reduce the need for future debt.

The draft budget includes a proposed 3.75% revenue increase, but how that will be applied to rates will be determined by commissioners at a later time. Any rate adjustments would most likely be effective April 1, 2023.

The proposed budget, along with other documents, are available on the PUD’s budget website.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard from Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Jeri Timm regarding the recent successful inspection of Enloe Dam, noting that there were no emergency repairs needed. A full report is expected from the PUD’s consultant within the next few months.
  • Heard that the volatility of the power market has led to major ups and downs in pricing structures, affecting both this year’s projected budget and next year’s proposed budget. The PUD was under budget in wholesale power sales by nearly $400,000 in August but has already recovered that and more in September. During an evening workshop, staff shared that the 2023 budget projects higher power costs, but the ups and downs make budgeting difficult. The PUD is also looking into renewable energy projects as possible new power sources.
  • Heard that broadband continues to expand, seeking grants as well as determining areas of need to expand with or without grant funding. As of Sept. 1, the PUD system has 3,887 total connections with 684 of those direct fiber.
  • Approved the purchase of 229 pole- and pad-mount transformers up to $2 million to arrive in 2023 and 2024. A similar order would have cost around $500,000 just a few years ago but increasing costs of materials and demand continue to inflate prices and drive longer-term delivery estimates.
  • Heard that staff held a successful all-employee meeting Sept. 22, in which service awards were given, totaling 255 years of service at the PUD.
  • Congratulated staff on winning five awards from Northwest Public Power Associations’ Excellence in Communications contest.
  • Approved the surplus of old broadband department equipment, which will go to public auction.

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