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2020 budget approved: no rate increase, more fiber, stronger financial outlook

EPHRATA — Grant PUD commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a $291 million budget for 2020 with no electric-rate increase for any customer group except the approximately 25 cryptocurrency mining operations classified as "evolving industries."

A solid revenue outlook through 2024 and years of careful budgeting and planning have Grant PUD well-positioned to continue upgrades at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, ready the electric system for future growth, continue to invest in technology and extend fiber-optic service to six more currently unserved areas, listed as 10 through 15 on the priority list posted on grantpud.org/getfiber.

"There's been a lot of thought and a lot of hard work gone into this budget process by staff," Commissioner Tom Flint said just before the vote. "The direction we're going is to justify all the expenses in the budget. This is getting closer to where we want to be in the budget process. I'm certainly supportive of this process and this budget."

Total expenditures of $370 million include $127.9 million for maintenance and operations, $140.9 million for capital expenses, $18.2 million in taxes and $83.1 million in service on Grant PUD's $1.3 billion in long-term debt.

Income, driven mostly by $86.3 million from the sale of electricity on the wholesale market and to contracted power purchasers, offsets total spending to bring total budgeted expenditures to $291 million. A net-income "bottom line" of $63 million expected in 2020 will be invested in the utility to help ensure system reliability and reduce the need for future debt.

Grant PUD will benefit in 2020 from consecutive years stronger-than-expected wholesale revenues by using excess cash to pay for more of its capital costs and taking advantage of low interest rates to refinance some existing debt. This financial plan could save the utility as much as $44.7 million through 2024 if market conditions continue as forecast. View the budget presentation and summary at grantpud.org/commission-meetings.