CMEEC releases 2018 budget with few details

Norwich — The Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative released few details Friday about the 2018 operating budget approved by the board of directors Thursday, with no breakdowns for any categories, including board expenses.

The cooperative did provide a list of 2017-18 salaries running from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, for eight top positions, totaling $1.625 million and ranging from the $325,000 salary for CEO Drew Rankin to $140,000 for the director of customer and community prosperity.

The state Freedom of Information Commission ruled in September that the agency had to release its 2017 budget after a complaint was filed by The Day a year ago in November for refusing to do so.

Following Thursday’s board approval, CMEEC General Counsel Robin Kipnis said proprietary and confidential information had to be removed before the budget was released. She revealed only that the net nonfuel operating expenses for 2018 totaled $7.3 million.

The cooperative is owned by six municipally owned public utilities, including Norwich Public Utilities, Jewett City Department of Utilities, Groton Utilities and Bozrah Light & Power, which is owned by Groton Utilities. The cooperative sells wholesale electricity to the municipal utilities and owns several generation facilities.

On Friday, Kipnis provided several pages of budget summaries, showing the agency’s total operating expenses at $123.6 million, including $101 million for purchased power and generation costs, which comprises 82 percent of the total budget. Transmission costs were listed at $12.7 million, 10 percent of the budget, and “Administrative and General” expenses at $7 million, or 6 percent, of the budget.

In addition to Rankin’s salary, the list included a salary of $262,000 for Chief Financial Officer Edward Pryor, who has 35 years of service at CMEEC, according to a notation at the bottom of the page, and $190,000 for the general counsel.

Salary increases were set at 3.2 percent this year, Pryor told the board Thursday, in line with a competitive marketing study.

In the wake of a controversy that erupted last fall over CMEEC’s practice of hosting lavish trips to the Kentucky Derby each year for four years for dozens of board members, some staff, relatives and guests, the state legislature passed a law putting more constraints on the cooperative. The law, which took effect Oct. 1, dictated that all CMEEC retreats be held within the state and include formal business to be conducted, with agendas, minutes and expenses pre-approved by the board.

Another provision requires a five-year forensic audit of CMEEC’s finances and requires the cooperative to provide a list of executive officers’ salaries and benefits to the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee.

No comparisons of the 2018 budget to the 2017 budget were provided Friday. The 2017 budget summary released to The Day in September by CMEEC following the FOI Commission ruling did not list individual salaries by position. Salaries in 2017 totaled $3.9 million, a 16 percent increase from 2016, including five new positions.

A 2018 capital budget released Friday showed total capital costs at $982,750, including $323,250 in building renovations now underway at the cooperative’s headquarters at 30 Stott Ave. in the Norwich business park, and $41,000 for a “footprints expansion.”

Rankin told the board Thursday that board meetings usually held at the CMEEC headquarters will be held at the Spa at Norwich Inn during 2018, as the board meeting room will be unavailable during renovations. He also said with the expanded board mandated by the new state law, which will add a ratepayer representative to the board from each of the six member utilities, the board room would not be large enough to accommodate board meetings.


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