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Special Report

Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1998

began work on its business plan in July 1996. The plan was approved in November that year and changes have been made in the association's Washington, D.C., office since then, including the hiring of Margaret A. Welsh as executive director.

The plan includes a look at association staffing and an analysis of the budget and reserves. Its goals are to act as a member information exchange and to increase advocacy and visibility with federal regulators and legislators.

"We have been incredibly prudent in the management of our resources and have amassed a $10-million reserve," Welsh told the executive committee. "Usually, trade associations' reserve goals are equivalent to one year's operating budget. For us, that's about three million [dollars]. We have three times what is the normal goal."

Welsh says now is the time to have the money work for the association.

NARUC's budget for 1998 is $3.4 million, with revenues coming from publication sales, grants, investment income and other sources.

The plan would bolster staff by 11 positions over two years. New positions include a chief financial officer, an administrative director and a public information officer. About 17 people work at NARUC now, although some positions are vacant. Several employees will be promoted and others will be let go after they're provided with outplacement assistance.

The plan calls for enhancing the association's hardware and software, evaluating and improving meetings, exploring new funding and expanding grant options, which make up about a third of the annual budget. Granting agencies including the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Technology enhancements could mean an improved web site, searchable databases and improving accounting and meeting registration software.

Welsh says that if the investment strategy were not changed, at the end of the plan, reserves would be $15.6 million. If gains are used for improvements, the portfolio would be worth $14 million. Under the plan, $1.1 million would go toward salaries or new programs. About $500,000 would be for operating reserves, she says.

NARUC has yet to announce a deadline for its executive committee to approve the plan. Welsh recommended that it be addressed year-to-year because of all the changes proposed.

"In terms of the approval process, we're going through it as we need to," she says. "There's no set time frame."

Joseph F. Schuler Jr. is senior associate editor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.

They Said It in Seattle

Reliability vs. Economics

"I don't think we can live with the fiction of bright lines, with economics on one side and reliability on the other. We can only live with that when you had ratepayers who were docile and regulators who were willing to make the ratepayers pay for it. Now it's a different world."

- Charles Stalon, board member, ISO New England

Transcos vs. ISOs

"It's not necessarily ISO versus transmission company or transco. It is what structure in each region can best achieve the efficiencies and the reliability. Market forces without mandates should be allowed to shape and reshape market institutions."

- Kent Foster, vice president of regulatory affairs, Entergy Corp.

"I see a