Board Adopts Reduced Budget for 2021

Deer Island, OR – December 16, 2020 – The Columbia River People’s Utility District Board of Directors has adopted a $41.2 million Operating and Capital Budget for 2021, a decrease of $1.3 million from the 2020 Budget.

“I’ve only had an opportunity to be here for about three and a half months, but I’ve got to say, this is one of the healthiest budgets that I’ve seen,” said PUD General Manager Michael Sykes. “It’s pretty much unheard of to come in and have a budget that’s 3% less than the year before, and that’s what this Budget reflects.”

For the first time, the Budget does not include expenses for long-term debt. The PUD paid off its outstanding long-term debt in December.

System Upgrades

Rather than incurring long-term debt, the PUD plans to continue paying cash for improvements to its electric system. Doing so will help the PUD achieve its mission of providing quality services at the lowest practical cost.

The adopted Budget includes $5.7 million for capital improvement projects. The primary goal for these projects is to improve reliability of service throughout the PUD’s service territory and to increase electrical capacity. As Columbia County continues to grow, so does the need for reliable electric service.

The largest capital project in the Budget is the construction of a new substation next to the PUD’s office in Deer Island. The PUD’s Budget includes $840,000 for construction of the substation and $525,000 to construct a new transmission line that will allow the substation to be energized.

Three major overhead to underground conversion projects are planned. These are along Gensman Road in Yankton, Apple Valley Road in Scappoose, and Grey Cliffs Drive in St. Helens. Moving power lines underground is part of the PUD’s wildfire mitigation efforts. Undergrounding lines will also help reduce power outages caused by trees.

“This Budget reflects a continued effort by the PUD to make improvements to the system that are vital to make sure we have a dependable system, and there’s also more focus on fire protection. I think that’s really timely,” Sykes said.

The PUD intends to make major upgrades inside its St. Helens Substation, replacing the steel structure and circuit breakers.

Another large proposed project includes extending overhead lines on JP West Road. Currently, much of that road is single-phase power line. The PUD plans to add two additional phases, making it a three-phase power line to the area near Dwight Drive.

Year-End Cash Balance

The 2021 Budget calls for ending the year with cash reserves of $9 million. This is $800,000 above the year-end minimum of $8.2 million established by the Board of Directors.

It is a drawdown of $1 million from the forecasted 2020 year-end balance. A major contributing factor to the decrease is the allocation of $1.36 million toward the Deer Island Substation and Transmission Line.

“We were a little nervous due to the pandemic, so we didn’t build a lot of extra into the Budget. I think we achieved the goal of fiscal responsibility,” said Board Member Debbie Reed.