Jefferson PUD approves 2024 budget

Decision made to not increase property tax

EDITOR’S NOTE: Names have been corrected in this story.

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners has unanimously approved a 2024 budget that includes no increase in the property tax rate.

Washington state allows a 1 percent increase in property taxes without bringing the matter before the public for a vote, but the PUD commissioners decided not to raise taxes.

“And I look at as this is the best way we can help our customers in rate relief is by not increasing their property taxes, because if we did the maximum amount, it only gives us $100,000 extra,” said District 3 Commissioner Dan Toepper at the meeting on Monday.

The electric utility shows estimated 2024 operating revenue of $48.67 million and operating expenses of $43 million, leaving an estimated budget reserve of $8 million.

The water utility shows an estimated 2024 operating revenue of $4.94 million and operating expenses of $4.83 million, leaving an estimated budget reserve of $410,000.

The broadband utility shows an estimated 2024 operating revenue of $130,000 and operating expenses of $1.3 million, leaving an estimated $1.2 million budget deficit.

The district’s electric revenues are based upon current rates and increased rates effective July 2024. The residential base fee is $26 per month, increasing to $28.50, while Tier 1 consumption is 0.936 for 0-600 kilowatt-hours, increasing to 0.966.

The district also budgeted for 13 new positions in 2024, including an assistant general manager, network project manager, broadband customer service representative and three broadband techs.

“There’s certain capital expenses, certain capital projects, we just can’t do,” said Finance Director Mike Bailey. “We are getting into storm season. Hopefully we don’t have a big storm season. Last November’s storm was over a million dollars.

“We talk about things quite a bit. If the revenue doesn’t come in, then staff has to make those decisions. What do we hold off on until a later year or a later month? There’s certain expenses, certain capital projects, we just can’t do,” he said.

Said Toepper: “I think this is a question that needs to be asked. We’ve put so many things off already. And I really don’t want to see us in that position again of running reserves down again because we have to meet the capital improvement or we have to do the things we have to do to keep things moving forward on broadband.”

Said District 1 Commissioner Jeff Randall: “I frankly feel we are front-loading a little bit and we’ve had a lot of healthy discussion and this budget hasn’t really changed very much since you presented it to us in August. And we haven’t had a lot of public outcry or concern. And we’ve had these rates. We set the rate increases. I’m comfortable, frankly, if we take action tonight.”

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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