Lewis County PUD

Lewis Public Utility District general manager Chris Roden gestures toward the Fords Prairie substation in Centralia. The PUD is in the process of evaluating its long-term infrastructure needs.

A possible 6 percent rate increase is on the table to balance a $3 million deficit in Lewis County PUD 1’s preliminary $88 million 2020 budget, PUD General Manager Chris Roden told The Chronicle this week. 

The PUD’s board of commissioners held its first public hearing on the proposed budget Tuesday during its regularly scheduled meeting. A second public hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 17. 

As of this draft of the budget, total expenditures are projected at about $88.2 million, with projected revenue at about $85.2 million for 2020, including both the electric system and the county’s Cowlitz Falls hydroelectric facility, according to the PUD. 

Most of the PUD’s expenses are driven by its largest power provider — the Bonneville Power Administration, Roden said. When Bonneville’s rates go up, the PUD’s expenses also rise. 

“Roughly 2/3 of our budget is driven by Bonneville,” he said. 

The PUD has no significant capital projects in its three-year-operating plan, but PUD staff at Tuesday’s meeting cautioned that many of the utility’s substations will need upgrades in the near future. 

Large capital expenses, such as upgrades to its buildings or substations, will likely require going into debt, Roden said.

On the revenue side, most of the PUD’s income comes from electricity customers, Roden said. The PUD relies on growth in power usage to keep rates low, but does not have infinite capacity to provide power. 

Roden suggested alternative revenue streams, including fiber optic lines. 

“We’d like to see that growing over time,” he said. 

Tuesday’s budget presentation didn’t discuss rates explicitly, but Roden said the board would need to discuss rate increases in the near future to deal not only with the projected 2020 shortfall, but increased shortfalls in 2021 and 2022, expected to be $4.1 million and $6.2 million, respectively.

“The budget and rates are very much aligned,” he said “So it’s important to us to be transparent in the process.” 

The utility would need to raise rates by 1 percent to offset $500,000 of its shortfall, meaning if it dealt with the shortfall with rates alone, customers could expect a 6 percent increase, Roden said.

The topic will likely come up at the Sept. 17 hearing, he said. 

Roden said he anticipates the budget will be passed before Oct. 1, marking a shift in strategy from last year, in which the budget was passed at the absolute last minute in late December. 

To accomplish that, the PUD began drafting its 2020 budget and three-year operating plan in April. 

For more information about the PUD’s preliminary budget and future hearings, go to https://www.lcpud.org/budget/.

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(3) comments

ghostrider

I was going over my utilities bill yesterday. I wonder if I'm reading it right. There's a base each charge for electricity, water and sewer. Then, there's a breakdown of the electricity and water usage and then a charge for those usages plus a usage charge for sewer and a separate bill for Storm and Surface Water. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it appears that I have to pay the base charge whether I use the utility or not. THEN, I have to pay for anything I use. So I'm paying just for the privilege of HAVING water, electricity and sewer, THEN I have to pay extra for any that I use. I find this outrageous, and typical thinking on the part of politicians (face it - the heads of any utilities are politicians whether elected or not). I'm also being charged for sewer usage, but have no idea how they measure that since there's no meter that I'm aware of.


Crys1969

I love how Lewis County PUD Blames Bonneville Power for the power going up when Bonneville Power Rates are staying the same. They just announced that. So its easy to put blame on someone else when you know they won't respond to this. You can see all Bonneville rates and change at anytime they are not as high as what they are claiming you are charged. Bonneville isn't raising power prices. They are not charging anymore then they have been. I love how they get blamed for everything by everyone because the local PUD and The Chronicle doesn't fact check anything. Maybe you should. They blamed them for the power outages when it was the city fault but did the City of Centralia ever step up and say one was due to us no. The next was humane fault out by the new frozen storage place but the first thing reported was blame Bonneville. How about stop blaming and get the fact. Bonneville isnt raising rates they are staying flat. They are not going to do anything different this year then last. Look at your PUD why and what they are charging.


jbundy48

Sewer usage is determined by your water use, which is measured, since all water coming in has to go out into the sewer system. Whether you use these services or not, they have to be maintained and damages repaired. These things cost a lot.


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