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OKANOGAN - The Okanogan County Public Utility District is studying its rates to plan for its financial needs while keeping rates affordable and equitable.

That’s the goal of the months-long rate study that will be conducted by consulting company FCS Group.

The study likely will run through January 2020, said PUD officials.

FCS Group representative Sergey Tarasov presented information to the PUD board during its June 24 meeting.

The study involves three main elements.

First, the district’s equity management plan will determine the amount of annual revenue necessary to fund all financial obligations for the district, such as operating expenses, debt service and capital costs.

It will look at different funding approaches for upcoming capital projects, making recommendations toward financial health. The plan also guides the district to meet financial targets and maintain reserve balances over a multi-year period.

Second, the cost of service analysis looks for an equitable distribution of cost share that considers the different classes of customers, such as residential, industrial and so on.

The study would determine each class’ actual costs and whether their varying rates are equitable and sufficient to meet the district’s needs, said the district.

Third, the rate design portion will be developed from the two earlier studies, taking into account revenue requirements and equitable pricing structure, and producing a rate schedule that will balance financial needs and minimize customer impacts.

Commissioners directed FCS Group to explore a variety of possible changes and how they might affect customer bills, such as eliminating the base charge, moving to a demand charge, changing customer classes - there are currently nine - and other possibilities.

Rate structuring work seeks to avoid big increases while funding long-term infrastructure needs.

“If we can structure the rates so that it lessens the impact on the ratepayer, that would be a good use of this tool,” Commissioner Bill Colyar said.

The district will hear from FCS Group multiple times throughout the process, with presentations at public meetings.

Information and updates will be provided on the district’s website, www.okanoganpud.org, with links to past studies under the Electric Service/Electric Policies and Rates tab.

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