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Clark Public Utilities electric rates to increase
August 17, 2010
Electric rates in Clark County will increase September 1, following action today by the Clark Public Utilities board of commissioners.
The increase is necessary due to a number of factors, including the local effects of the recession, a warm winter and higher taxes.
For a typical homeowner using 1,500 kilowatt-hours a month, the average bill will increase by $6.95, from $122.75 to $129.70, a 5.7 percent increase. Rates for commercial and industrial customers will increase by varying amounts, based on usage patterns.
Director of Finance Rick Dyer said the increase was unavoidable.
“When the 2010 budget was adopted, it was very tight,” Dyer said. “The budget included absorbing a 4.6 percent increase in BPA power costs that was effective in October 2009, and an upcoming increase of the same amount that will be effective October 1, 2010. At the time, we made numerous cuts to the budget, including reductions in construction spending, a wage freeze for non-union employees and a freeze in hiring new employees except in rare circumstances.” The budget assumed revenues of $388 million, and a surplus of just $410,000.
“That left no margin for the unexpected,” Dyer said. “The tight 2010 budget was recommended and adopted to avoid an increase to electric rates in the midst of the economic slowdown.”
“The budget assumed average weather conditions, which is important since much of the demand for electricity is weather related. As it turned out, the first quarter this year was much warmer than normal and our sales were off by a large amount. Our plans, anticipated conservation savings by our residential and business customers, which has been largely achieved. We also believed that there would be some improvement in the local economy, based on what we were hearing from numerous national and local sources. We all know now there has been little improvement in the economy,” Dyer said.
In addition, the Washington Legislature approved measures that will increase our taxes by about $1 million this year, and a recent court decision will cost us an additional $1.9 million in taxes.
By spring, revenues were off by about $18 million. “We were able to make additional spending cuts to reduce the deficit to about $5.7 million.
Nancy Barnes, president of the utility’s board of commissioners, said “No one wants to raise rates, but this was a long time coming. I’m proud of the cost-cutting efforts we’ve made.
“Our responsibilities as commissioners forced us to approve a minimal increase to ensure that we’re able to continue providing our customer-owners with reliable service while still meeting our financial commitments.”
About Clark Public Utilities
Clark Public Utilities is a customer-owned public utility district that provides electric service to more than 183,000 customers throughout Clark County. The utility’s Water System provides service to more than 30,000 homes and businesses in the Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, Lakeshore, Hockinson, Brush Prairie, La Center, Meadow Glade, Amboy and Yacolt areas.
Clark Public Utilities was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the west by J.D. Power and Associates in 2008, 2009 and 2010.