Time to seriously question LPEA

To the editor,

If you pay an electric bill to LPEA, you are a member/owner. LPEA recently announced a rate increase that affects us all. I decided to investigate how the money would be spent. Asking the Board for a copy of the 2020 budget, I was given a summary budget with expenses totaling almost $24 million. When I asked again for a detailed budget, the CEO stated that I was given the exact information the board received and approved.

LPEA said the April rate increase would be used to “maintain and improve electricity infrastructure and to prepare for the future of the electric grid.” However, the budget for operations and maintenance (infrastructure) is slightly less than in the past. The “administrative/general, and other customer services” expenses, on the other hand, are almost $11 million; a 22 percent increase over 2018! Exactly, what are administrative and other customer services that cost more than the infrastructure?

How can the board of LPEA approve a budget without knowing expense details? I have a really hard time believing the board approved a budget on what I was given. I recently served on a fellow electric co-op board in Colorado for 14 years. Our board held annual budget meetings. We completed a “cost of service study” to determine rates based on what it actually costs to deliver electricity to members. Our chief financial officer presented a detailed budget (24-30 pages) that allowed us to make prudent and accountable decisions. So, I’m asking: is this board negligent, or is this a blatant lack of transparency to members?

As some information is open to the public, I found these facts, from LPEA’s required IRS form 990, their annual reports and minutes over the past year.

• CEO salary: $300,000+/year

• Combined salary of top 10 employees: $2 million/year • 2019 Board expenses: $310,000+

I’ve heard $1 million+ has been spent on attorneys/consultants to explore breaking our contract with our electricity provider, Tri-State, but with the lack of accountability, who knows what the real cost is?

It’s election time. Mail-in ballots will be sent April 15. I am running in District 4 and would appreciate your vote to stop the spending.

– Sue McWilliams, Durango