Snohomish PUD approves 2019 budget

Commissioners to vote on 1.3 percent rate increase for April
By Brian Soergel | Dec 27, 2018
Rebecca Wolfe

The Snohomish County PUD board of commissioners has approved its 2019 budget, which contains a 1.3 percent rate increase that would be effective in April. But first there will be a public hearing, and a majority of commissioners must approve the increase.

PUD commission president Kathy Vaughn lost her bid for a fifth term in this year’s primary election. Edmonds resident Rebecca Wolfe will begin a six-year term in 2019 after defeating David Chan in the general election. Other commissioners are incumbents Sid Logan and Toni Olson.

As of Oct. 1, 2017, residential billing rates are about 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The increase would take it to about 10.5 cents.

Wolfe is commissioner for District 2, which serves Edmonds. In response to questions from the Beacon before the general election, she said that, “I want to work for more affordable energy rates and more special programs for those in financial distress. The status quo is no longer acceptable."

The utility district, which is publicly owned, said it prevented a larger proposed rate increase through a series of cost-control measures, including limiting new hiring, realizing lower medical benefits premiums, use of fewer external consultants and reducing employee travel.

The utility has increasingly focused on continual improvement to guide project management, increase productivity and reduce costs.

“The budget reflects our ongoing commitment to our customers, investments to meet future needs and responsible cost and fiscal management,” said Snohomish PUD CEO/General Manager John Haarlow, whose salary is $390,000 a year.

The budget includes a $665 million operating budget for PUD’s electric system. The budget would fund $93 million in capital projects for the PUD electric system to maintain reliability for the utility’s 352,000 customers.

Projects include construction of new substations and upgrades to existing facilities.

The PUD said it continues to invest in its wood pole and cable replacement program. Funds also are scheduled for vehicle replacements and design work for a new regional office in Arlington.

The utility incorporated numerous public benefits in its 2019 budget, including:

@Energy efficiency funding of $21.7 million for programs to help customers reduce bills

@Low-income discounts of $6.3 million to assist qualifying customers

Fish & wildlife expenses of $83 million to support efforts on the Columbia River by the Bonneville Power Administration.@

Snohomish County PUD is the second largest publicly owned utility in Washington and the 12th largest in the country. It serves more than 352,000 electric customers and about 20,000 water customers.

Its service territory covers over 2,200 square miles, including all of Snohomish County and Camano Island.

Email for the commissioners is commissioners@snopud.com. The first meeting of the year is Jan. 8 at PUD headquarters at 2320 California St., Everett.

 

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