Jefferson Public Utility District panel to discuss more rate hikes

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners have tabled discussion of possible rate increases in 2018 and 2019 that would follow on the heels of rate hikes put into effect this year.

The discussion will be picked up again at a workshop June 2, said PUD Commissioner Jeff Randall.

The commissioners discussed a 2018 rate survey during their meeting Tuesday but decided to table the discussion for now, he said.

“We discussed the rate study but ultimately decided to continue the discussion until early summer,” Randall said. “There will be a lot of processing to to go over.”

Last year, before Randall was elected, the commissioners had already scheduled a number of rate hikes that have been — and will be — implemented in 2017.

On Jan. 1, the base fee for residential customers was raised from $7.50 to $14.50.

Low-income and residential customers also will see a 1 percent increase in kilowatt-per-hour charges June 1. That hike will affect customers differently because it is based on energy consumption, PUD representatives have said.

“What has not been decided is what to do beyond that,” Randall said.

The 2017 hikes were the first in three years. After the PUD took over as East Jefferson County’s electrical provider in 2013, rates stagnated while PUD commissioners and staff assessed its needs for annual spending.

Since 2013, the cost of power from the Bonneville Power Administration has risen 6 percent and is expected to go up another 4 percent in 2017. That higher cost prompted the PUD rate hikes, representatives said.

No decision on future rate hikes will be made at the June 2 workshop, Randall said.

The PUD’s budget won’t be decided until October, so the commissioners still have months before they need to finalize plans. They have until the third quarter of 2017 before any 2018 or 2019 rate changes will need to be determined.

In the past year, the PUD has worked to bring in more funding not only to offset rising energy costs but also to pay off a loan from the federal Rural Utilities Service.

The loan helped pay for electrical services after the PUD took over the electrical power services from Puget Sound Energy in April 2013. The base price of the infrastructure purchased from PSE was roughly $103 million.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.