PUD Holds Rate Hearing, Rate Changes Ahead for Electric, Water, Sewer, Broadband

Jefferson County PUD Board of Commissioners is holding a Rate Hearing at 5pm on January 29th at the Chimacum Fire Hall to discuss proposed increases to both electric and water/sewer rates in 2018.

Though the board has not formally approved the change, a 4.8% increase to residential electrical rates was first proposed at a special PUD rate hearing in November. Presented by Assistant Manager Kevin Streett and Gail Tabone of EES Consulting, who specializes in utility rate design, the proposal would, if adopted, raise the current residential base rate from $14.50 to $18.50 and increase the consumption rate by $.0084 per kwh. More info on changes to other electrical rates here.

According to Tabone’s estimates, even with the rate increases, the PUD’s monthly bill at 1200kwh will still fall below both PSE and Seattle City Light. According to Streett, the PUD’s increase proposals were triggered by BPA’s biannual rate adjustments, which brought a 5.4% increase in the price of power to Jefferson PUD. The PUD gets 100% of its power from the BPA, which is the district’s single biggest expense, accounting for 46% of its annual budget.

Though the PUD’s 3-member board of commissioners previously approved a 2018 budget based on the increased revenues the rates Streett and Tabone proposed would return, it is not expected to make a final vote on an electrical rate change until the February 7th regular meeting.

“The rate hearing provides an additional opportunity for the board and the public to hear the proposals and offer comments and questions,” explained PUD Board President and District 1 representative Jeff Randall.

Tabone and Streett will also present a proposal for increasing the PUD’s water and sewer rates. According to Streett, the PUD is set to lose over $330,000 on the cost of operating its water systems in 2018 if rates don’t go up. “And that’s before capital improvements are added in,” said Streett.

Tabone recommends the district raise water and sewer rates by 10% and add a $10 capital surcharge fee to the monthly bill. The combined increase would cover all annual expenses and improvements and continue to keep the PUD’s rates below those charged by both the cities of

Port Townsend and Port Angeles as well as rates charged by Clallam County. The average impact per bill is expected to be $13/mo. for residential water, $22/mo. for commercial water and $3/mo. for sewer. A date has not been set for a final vote on the water/sewer rates. More info on water/sewer rate changes here.

Though he does not expect to present a final proposal on the 29th, Streett is also working on adjusting the PUD’s wholesale fiber rates. Instead of an increase, however, Streett is looking to dramatically lower the cost of installing and leasing PUD high speed fiber. Street noted the pursuit of a rate decrease was inspired by the PUD’s participation in the current Water Street Enhancement project. Because of ongoing construction, and partnerships with the City of Port Townsend, the PUD will be able to install more fiber downtown and more cheaply than in the past. Streett is working with Joel Paisner, of Ascent Law Partners in Seattle, who specializes in utility and telecom rates, on a new round of pricing. Streett expects to present the new decreased rates to the board of commissioners at the February 20th regular board meeting.