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TID approves electric rates hike
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Turlock Irrigation District's electric rates will increase 4 percent annually in 2012, 2013, and 2014, following Board of Directors action taken Dec. 6.

The rate increase will amount to about $3 per month for the average TID household in 2012, the district said. By 2014, homes will pay an average of roughly $11 more per month, compared to 2011 rates.

The increase will appear on ratepayers' bills as a new, "Environmental Charge," intended to attribute the rate change to onerous state laws. In efforts to meet state requirements that the district source 33 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020, in 2009 TID constructed the $427 million Tuolumne Wind Project, a 136.6 megawatt wind power plant in Klickitat County, Wash.; the district will begin making principal payments on that project next year.

According to the district, even in 2014 the Environmental Charge will still fall short of the true costs of meeting state mandates.

TID has not raised rates since 2009, when electric costs went up 15 percent system wide. The new increase will see rates rise a similar amount, but spread over three years with the aid of reserve funds, intended to reduce rate shock for consumers.

At the Dec. 6 TID Board hearing to adopt the rate increase, there were no comments from members of the public.

The rate increase came as TID adopted its 2012 budget, which calls for an essentially flat budget despite increasing pension costs, legal fees related to ongoing labor negotiations, and a nearly $2 million increase in Electrical Engineering/Operations costs. In efforts to keep that budget flat, the plan calls for TID to shrink from 479 positions budgeted in 2011, to 462 positions in 2012.

"TID is very conscious and is aware of the economic strain in our area," said TID Board of Directors President Michael Frantz. "Due to that, in light of that, we have cut positions and we've cut costs wherever we can."

Don Pedro fees change

The TID Board of Directors also approved a mild, across-the-board fee increase for Don Pedro.

The fee increase was driven by a shortfall between operations and maintenance costs and available revenues, despite ongoing efforts to cut costs. The only remaining options were to either raise fees, or increase the contribution from the district's general fund.

"It seems to be a matter of fairness to ask those who use the facility to pay, rather than burdening the whole," Frantz said.

Most fees - from camping to entry and boat fees - see an increase of between $1 and $3 per day. Two larger fee increases come for vehicles trekking to the reservoir for the Fourth of July Fireworks - up from $8 to $15 per car - and an additional $5 per night surcharge for campsite rentals on weekends and holidays.

The firework fee increase came as the Don Pedro Recreational Agency budgets $30,000 annually for the show, without a previously attached funding source. The extra cost for weekend campsite rentals comes as 80 percent of Don Pedro camping occurs on weekend nights, forcing the agency to turn away some potential campers; the agency hopes to encourage more midweek camping.

TID adopts new district boundaries

The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors on Dec. 6 adopted new district boundaries which will determine directorial representation through 2021.

The boundaries are largely the same as the outgoing lines, save for small adjustments.

District 2 - bounded by Highway 99 on the west, River Road on the north, and TID Lateral 2.5 to the south -will grow east to Santa Fe Avenue, subsuming part of District 1, to better balance resident counts. District 3 will also grow, adding the northeastern tip of what was District 2, as well as the northeastern tip of District 4.

Redistricting is required by state law once every 10 years, following the census, to balance population between voting districts. The district received only one public comment on the redistricting plan, which came from former Board of Directors candidate Chris Barth, who lost to Michael Frantz in the Nov. 8 election.