Electricity customers will not confront higher prices in 2018 in the Modesto or Turlock irrigation districts, budget documents suggest.
The MID board on Tuesday will consider approving a 2018 budget, which envisions unchanged power rates. TID’s proposed budget also assumes no rate increase, notes from an Oct. 31 workshop say.
MID leaders have not raised electricity prices in five years, since an attorney warned that doing so might require a vote from customers.
The MID board has raised farmers’ water prices several times in recent years for a combined increase of about 70 percent. Even so, farmers pay only a fraction of true water costs and rely heavily on multimillion-dollar subsidies from MID’s electricity customers.
A class-action lawsuit seeking rebates for tens of thousands of electricity customers in on hold pending the outcome of another case with similar elements from Redding, which could be heard by the California Supreme Court in coming months. TID also is watching the Redding case, officials said.
Meanwhile, MID “staff will not be proposing an electric revenue increase based on the proposed 2018 budget,” reads a background report for Tuesday’s MID board meeting. It starts at 9 a.m. at 1231 11th St., Modesto.
A decade ago, annual electricity rate hikes were routine. Although MID’s rates were rock-bottom in 2000, compared to others around the state, regular increases drove MID’s rates higher than others’, including Pacific Gas & Electric Co., by 2010. MID rates then stablized while PG&E and some others continue creeping upward.
Three years ago, MID staff proposed a 3.5 percent increase, but the board said “no.” Pricing was a major issue this fall for MID board challenger Stu Gilman, who held a lead of 114 votes over incumbent Jake Wenger (50.9 percent to 48.8 percent, not counting a few write-in votes) as of Thursday, with thousands more ballots yet to count. A final tally is expected in a few days.
MID sells electricity to more than 115,000 customers, including families, stores and businesses, in Modesto, Salida, Empire, Waterford and Mountain House as well as parts of Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and Ripon.
MID’s 2018 proposed budget envisions $428 million in expenses, down 6..3 percent from the previous year. The utility expects to spend much less buying and generating electricity — $187.2 million, down 15 percent from $220.6 million last year. That’s mostly because MID got out of buying energy from a coal-burning plant in New Mexico, and because of comparatively low prices for natural gas fueling MID’s own electricity generators.
MID will require $16.1 million in bond proceeds to balance its books; that’s an improvement over the 2017 budget, which needed $32.3 million from that source.
TID gets twice as much water from the Tuolumne River as MID, serving far more farmland, while delivering electricity to 98,000 customers in Turlock and on the West Side of Stanislaus County.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390