Grant PUD finances in strong position

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EPHRATA — What to do with extra cash the Grant County PUD has in excess of its needs will be discussed by commissioners over the next few meetings.

The PUD sets up targets as a benchmark to see how business is going, and for 2019 those included at least $105 million in cash (called electric system liquidity). Lead financial analyst Jeremy Nolan said the PUD is projected to finish 2019 with $188.5 million. “We’re looking still really strong” in the second quarter of the year, Nolan said.

“I still am a little bit concerned that our cash basis gets that high,” said commissioner Dale Walker.

With a large cash reserve, utility district officials are looking at using some of the money. “We’ll be bringing back some recommendations to you,” said chief financial officer Jeff Bishop. Among the options are paying down some of the PUD’s outstanding debt and working on additional capital projects.

Bishop said PUD officials would have some suggestions during the budget presentation at the Sept. 24 commission meeting. That’s scheduled for the Headquarters Office Building at Wanapum Dam.

“The gain that we’ve realized, power prices have been higher, right?” said commissioner Larry Schaapman.

Nolan said the amount of available cash was increasing, but that higher wholesale power prices, especially in the first quarter of 2019, helped increase them more than projected.

“We have a good problem, is what we have,” Schaapman said.

The PUD has some very good problems, Nolan said, and the utility has made progress in getting to and beating its budget targets. Chief executive officer Kevin Nordt said current budget projections show the PUD will be in a favorable position when the projections include minimal rate increases and the completion of the district’s fiber project.

Public presentations detailing the 2020 budget are planned during October. They include 2 p.m. Oct. 8 at the PUD headquarters, 30 Southwest C St. in Ephrata and at 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Moses Lake office, 312 West Third Ave. A third hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Port of Quincy, 101 Southwest F St.

Nolan said the PUD is meeting most of its other budget targets. The PUD’s outstanding debt is equivalent to about 58.7 percent of its assets, which is less than the budget target of 60 percent.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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