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OKANOGAN - Okanogan County Public Utility District commissioners are considering a change to rates to account for state taxes imposed on the district.

Those taxes are not currently designated on customer bills.

Although city-based utility bills show taxes charged by the city of residence, the district has not shown state taxes on customer bills even though the taxes are paid to the state annually.

General Manager Steve Taylor said during the PUD board’s Nov. 23 meeting that the district is still considering a 3.25 percent overall average revenue increase, but he proposed that customer bills be adjusted to show all taxes the district is required to collect.

The district pays a state privilege tax of 2.14 percent and state public utility tax of 3.8734 percent on all power sales. Any city-based taxes collected by the district are in addition to those amounts.

On an example bill, the average residential customer uses 1,400 kilowatt-hours of electricity monthly, amounting to about $111. If the district were to raise rates to highlight the state tax amounts, the customer would pay approximately $6 more per month.

Taylor said that would be more than the rate increase proposed, so the kWh charge could be reduced to avoid the additional burden to ratepayers. If the tax portion were shown on the bill, then customers could better understand where their dollars go.

The district pays about $2.8 million to state taxes annually.

“If taxes are imposed by somebody else, I think they should get credit for it,” Commissioner Jerry Asmussen said.

The district has been considering rate increases to go into effect April 1, 2021, to keep up with the increasing costs the district faces. A public hearing on the budget and rates continues to be open through at least two more board meetings in December.

The board will meet early, at 2 p.m. for an additional work session to discuss rate adjustment options, on Dec. 7, followed by the regular 3 p.m. meeting.

More information about board meetings and past discussions are available on the district’s website, www.okanoganpud.org. Meetings are being conducted via Zoom because of pandemic restrictions.

In other business, the board:

-Heard reports of theft of district materials from burn areas, including at a customer pump station. Customers are asked to report any suspicious activity to police; handling of any district materials is a safety hazard, even in burn areas.

-Heard that bids for steel poles and construction of the Okanogan-Brewster transmission line replacement should go out in mid-December. The work is planned to begin in April.

-Congratulated Don Coppock, retired director of finance and accounting, on earning the William T. Elmgren public service award through the Washington PUD Association. The award will be presented virtually in December, recognizing Coppock’s 27 years of service to the PUD, as well as his community service.

-Heard that retail power sales were nearly on budget for September, just slightly better than anticipated. Year to date, however, retail power sales have been $1.8 million under budgeted amounts because of mild weather resulting in low power usage, said Ron Gadeberg, director of power resources and broadband services.

Wholesale power sales have been a bit better than budgeted, bringing power sale totals to $1.4 million under budgeted amounts.

-Heard from Gadeberg that broadband service continues to grow, with Nov. 1 billing of more than $285,000. The system now has a total of 3,607 connections, 540 of which are direct fiber.

The PUD sells broadband wholesale to Internet service providers, who sell it to end users.

-Heard budget reports in an evening meeting, including operation and maintenance trends from Director of Finance and Accounting Janet Crossland, human resources from that department’s Manager Katie Pfitzer, information systems from Manager Jerry Day and broadband from Manager John MacDonald.

Only slight changes are expected in the proposed 2021 budgets. Broadband intends to increase its capital spending to build more fiber service in local communities.

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