The Cowlitz PUD Commission formally adopted the 2011 budget yesterday, passing a document that is more than $20 million less than the 2010 budget. PUD officials say that the 2011 budget is 7.79 percent smaller than 2010, responding to reduced retail and wholesale power sales. The total budget comes in at $239.6 million, including a budgeted expense of $166.6 million for purchase of power from the BPA. They’re also planning for a predicted wholesale rate increase of 8.5 percent from BPA, scheduled to come in on October first of next year. In response to the reduced revenues and increased expense from the BPA, the PUD is enacting a rate increase to go into effect on January first, with rates going up an average of 9 percent. Depending on the actions of the BPA, there could be another rate hike later in the year. The PUD has cut labor costs by more than $78,000 from 2010, and has also reduced the capital improvement budget to $17.2 million. That’s a cut of 57 percent.
PUD officials also report that they’ve completed the process of transferring the PUD Water System to the Beacon Hill Water and Sewer District, getting the PUD out of the water sales business. The PUD had owned a water supply system that served 3,800 customers since 1946, serving an area north and east of the Longview-Kelso area. Beacon Hill had been providing sewer service to much of the same area for many years, and they started discussions about transferring the water system back in 2006. The actual transfer started in 2007, and was finally completed this year. There’s no purchase price connected to the transfer, as all assets are owned by the customers, and they’ve simply been transferred to Beacon Hill to manage. Beacon Hill Water and Sewer will assume the principal and interest on seven infrastructure loans connected to the system, totaling $6.54 million.