TURLOCK -- Electricity bills keep going up, but the Turlock Irrigation District's spending will drop again in 2013 for lack of new projects, according to a draft budget up for a vote Tuesday.
If approved, the TID's $397 million budget will have declined 21 percent in two years now that work on a major transmission line and a power plant expansion has finished.
Under a three-step plan approved last year, electricity rates went up 4 percent in January and will do the same at the beginning of 2013 and 2014.
The district's spending history over the past 10 years is similar to neighboring Modesto Irrigation District, whose budget slid for three consecutive years before a projected slight increase in 2013.
The MID has forked out more than twice as much in debt payments in that time, however $550 million, compared to the TID's $232 million.
The TID's debt payments next year will top $30 million. That's a 39 percent jump in two years, bringing debt to 7.9 percent of the district's total budget.
The TID expects to pull down $358 million in 2013 water and power sales and other revenue, up 7 percent from two years ago.
Despite three years of power rate hikes totaling 12 percent, the TID expects to dip into its rate stabilization fund to balance the budget, using $7.4 million in 2013 on top of the $11.4 million transfer approved a year ago.
The fund "smooths what otherwise could be fairly significant rate increases," said Joe Malaski, the district's chief financial officer and assistant general manager.
Like the MID, the Turlock district doesn't envision taking on major projects in the near future. The MID recently declined to raise power rates as part of its 2013 strategy.
The number of approved TID positions would drop from 462 to 456 if the budget is approved, without layoffs because of vacancies.
A labor dispute that turned ugly in late September has yet to be resolved. In an apparent protest over working without a contract since Jan. 1, none of 40 linemen responded to a weekend power failure. Leaders should budget an extra $140,000 for negotiations in 2013, according to a plan presented in October.
The plan also lists higher costs for pensions ($2.2 million more) and medical coverage ($900,000 more).
The Turlock Irrigation District board of directors is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the district boardroom, 333 E. Canal Drive. The agenda can be seen at www.tid.org.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.