PUD looks at water rate hike | SierraSun.com

PUD looks at water rate hike

With the New Year and a new budget on its way, Truckee-Donner Public Utility District customers may see their water bills rise.

The TDPUD proposed budget for 2000 includes a 5 percent water rate increase – the first water rate increase in three years. Electric rates will remain unchanged in the recommended budget and will retain the rate reduction enacted in 1998 and 1999, according to PUD staff.

A water rate increase will help cover the cost of capital improvements. According to staff, the PUD has incurred considerable debt to replace portions of the water system that were failing and to expand the capacity of the system to meet the needs of new customers during the past several years. The amount of PUD customers has almost doubled in the last two years, said TDPUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister.

“We’re running pretty lean and mean, but we’re getting the job done,” he said.

The district also projects additional rate increases in the future to cover the costs of replacing water lines in Tahoe Donner, which staff said needs to be done in 2000. Work on the Tahoe Donner pipelines in 2000 is estimated to cost $2 million. Work in future years on the pipeline is estimated to cost as much as $8 million.

Debt payment of principal and interest totals $1.2 million in the 2000 budget, 32 percent of the operating budget.

“This debt will be part of the budget until the year 2021 and we are not yet finished with solving water system problems,” wrote staff in the recommended 2000 budget. “We need to develop new revenue sources to help amortize the new debt that is imminent and inevitable.”

Board member Jim Maass said that’s where the proposed telecommunications business may be able to help as a source of revenue.

“It could help keep the rates down and pay for capital improvements,” he said.

The 2000 budget recommends the district maintain the 11 percent discount to customers in electric rates it instituted last year. According to Holzmeister, the district’s current electric rates are equal to the rates of approximately 20 years ago.

The Truckee Donner PUD has the second lowest electric utility rate in the state, said staff. Out of 38 electric utility districts in the state, four of which are private, Truckee is second only to Surprise Valley.

The $9.3 million proposed 2000 electric budget includes strengthening the reliability of the electric distribution system by automating protective devices and eliminating weak segments. The budget also includes the district’s plans to acquire a geographic mapping information system.

“This new mapping system will allow us to respond more quickly when power outages occur and help us report on the status of power outages to ourcustomers,” said Holzmeister.

The TDPUD Boad of Directors was scheduled to discuss the possible rate increase and 2000 budget at a public hearing at last night’s regular meeting. The board was also expected to approve the budget at the meeting as of presstime Wednesday.

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