On November 24, 2020, Mason PUD 3 Commissioners adopted a $81.5 million budget for 2021, which includes an increase in the daily system charge and the first local energy rate increase since 2016. The adopted budget takes a conservative approach based on the uncertain economic impacts of COVID-19, while also prioritizing the safety and reliability of the essential services the utility provides.
PUD 3 Commissioners conducted a workshop on the budget and rates on Tuesday, November 10 as well as public hearings on both prior to the regular meeting on Tuesday, November 24.
RATE INCREASE DETAILS:
The residential rate increase includes:
• A three percent (3%) increase in residential kWh rates; and
• A $0.15 increase in the daily system charge.
The large commercial and industrial rate increase includes:
• A $0.15 increase in the daily system charge; and
• A $1.50 increase in the demand rate.
The rate increases will go into effect with meter readings on or after January 1, 2021.
Commissioners and staff developed next year’s proposed budget with a zero-based approach, meaning every function in the utility was analyzed for its needs and costs. The proposed 2021 budget is 5% higher than in 2020.
The 2021 budget sustains the priorities set in the PUD’s five-year strategic plan, as well as considers regulatory requirements and other impacts outside of the utility’s control.
Highlights of the 2021 budget include:
• Wholesale rate impacts from the Bonneville Power Administration.
• A total of $3.7 million in 2021 to meet requirements of Washington State’s Energy Independence Act.
• Costs to plan, design, and prepare for infrastructure such as substations and transmission needs to meet ongoing community and system growth.
• A $1.5 million investment for the continued implementation of the SCADA network for grid monitoring, control, outage restoration and optimization.
• Accelerated deployment of rural broadband to match the state and federal grants (CERB and USDA/RUS) as well as upgrades to the existing network allowing customers to connect more easily in response to the pandemic.
• Costs for the multi-year fiber-tagging and relocation initiative as required in the PUD’s Pole Attachment License Agreement.
• Costs for PUD’s pole inspection and treatment program (set up on a ten-year cycle) to ensure continued safety and reliability.
• Other items throughout the budget are due to fluctuations in the cost of goods and services and the continued impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
To offset the increase in costs, the PUD is using $1.3 million in bond funds for capital expenses such as the SCADA system and infrastructure builds. The PUD has also raised pole attachment rates (effective with July 2021 billings) to recover increased costs for maintenance to its pole inventory.
To help families financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PUD continues to waive late fees and disconnections for non-payment. Additionally, the PUD partnered with Mason County to distribute $300,000 of CARES Act funding to qualifying customers impacted by the pandemic who successfully applied for the help through the PUD.
Customers in need are also encouraged to contact the Mason County Community Action Council for assistance. Low income senior citizens and low income/disabled customers may qualify for a discount that waives the daily system charge from their bills. The PUD will continue to seek out funding to help its low-income customers and those affected by COVID-19.
PUD 3 will be conducting financial analyses throughout 2021 as part of an ongoing process to ensure its rates support the most reliable, economical, and safest service possible for its customers.