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10/8/2012 6:24:00 PM
PUD officials expect no rate hikes for 2013
From Steve Lachowicz
Community Relations Director

WENATCHEE -- Even as the PUD creeps out of debt, staff members do not expect to raise electric rates in 2013.
Chelan County Public Utility District finance officials are developing the 2013 budget now and told commissioners Oct. 1 they do not expect any rate hikes.

As key targets and assumptions for the budget planning were explained, staff also told commissioners:
• Growth in PUD expenses is expected to hold the line at no more than 4 percent;
• Capital spending on large projects is expected to be at or below $48 million;
• While more analysis has yet to be done, possible rate increases may be suggested starting in April for the PUD's water and wastewater system customers of 6 percent and 15 percent, respectively;
• There is expected to be room in the budget to connect an additional 600 fiber-optic customers to the wholesale fiber network;
• Electric system customer growth is expected to be about 1 percent;
• No new bond issues are expected for PUD borrowing in 2013.

Staff members said the PUD continues striving to provide reliable, high-quality services at a reasonable cost. They also said preliminary 2013 financial forecasts appear consistent with 2012 and are meeting the district's financial objectives.

Staff will present a preliminary budget to the Board of Commissioners Nov. 5, with further discussion on Nov. 19 and a request for Board adoption on Dec. 3.
In other items Oct. 1:
• Commissioners approved on a 3-2 vote a five-year lease for the Chelan Chamber of Commerce to rent the PUD-owned building in Chelan while the PUD takes the next steps to declare the building as surplus, get the property rezoned and sell the building.

"We were glad the commission decided to extend the lease," said Chamber Director Michael Steele in an email to the Mirror. "At the conclusion of the 5 years, the PUD hopes to sell this building. The Chamber of Commerce Board is already discussing plans for the location of both our offices and the visitor center, which may or may not be in this location. We will choose the location the best serves both our members and visitors."

• Communications Director Steve Lachowicz reported the PUD earned six communication awards at recent competition for members of the Northwest Public Power Association, including the 2012 Tom Hougan Award for best overall communication effort of the year.

The next regular commission meeting is 10 a.m., Monday, Oct. 15, in the PUD boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave. in Wenatchee.

Commissioners planned two special meetings for Oct. 9. One with commissioners from the Port of Chelan County and Chelan County and one regarding lake level management.

(Vince Lovato contributed to this report.)

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