"That tells me we've got some significant load growth on our system," McCalla said, during the annual presentation of the local electric utility's proposed budget. One of the measures for the amount of electric usage is the number of "annual cooling degree days", or days when the weather was hot enough to put a demand on the utility due to air conditioner usage.
While the number of cooling degree days this summer as well below the figures from 2006, as well as the 30-year-average, the amount of electricity sold was almost even with the total from last year.
"Three of the past five years we have been below the average and were only slightly above the average in fiscal year 2006," McCalla said, noting how the amount of electricity being sold has continued to increase during the period.
McCalla has proposed a fiscal year 2007/08 budget which includes $54.5 million in revenues for the utility, and $53.31 million in expenses when the utility's electric and cable and Internet operations are combined. The utility has not raised the base electric rate since the GEUS board was formed in 1988 and McCalla said no increase in the rate is forecast for next year.
However, GEUS is expected to implement a "power cost recovery factor" as part of customers' monthly bills, which will help the utility pay an increase in fixed costs paid to the Texas Municipal Power Agency, which operates the Gibbons Creek coal-fired electric generating plant that supplies much of GEUS' power.
McCalla has proposed almost $6.3 million in capital improvement expenses for next year. Projects include $1.32 million for a new customer service center, $1.7 million for the addition of a new substation on Shelby Avenue, $157,000 for the relocation of utility lines in preparation for the reconstruction of the Monty Stratton overpass, as well as $200,000 for a project to generate electricity using solar energy.
"That will get our foot in the door, so to speak, in renewables," McCalla said.
On the cable and Internet side, McCalla predicted an increase of $744,000 in revenues next year, in part due to a budgeted 9 percent increase in cable rates which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2008. McCalla said it was the utility's first increase in cable rates since the summer of 2006, and is necessary due to rises in the costs being charged for programming, as well as to pay for implementing new federal regulations.
McCalla said that growth has also been recorded in the cable and Internet operations, but not as rapidly as in earlier years. "We are continuing with moderate growth," McCalla said. "It is still pretty consistent and steady. In closing, McCalla said he believes the next year will be a challenging one for GEUS.
"We've never had this large a workload in transmission and substation projects before," McCalla said.
"We're well positioned to deal with the changes, due to the hard-working and capable staff that we have."
McCalla praised the efforts of all the utility's employees.
"They are our best asset," McCalla said. No one addressed the board during the public hearing. The board is now scheduled to vote on approving the budget during the Sept. 27 regular session.