Santee Cooper sale would hurt S.C.
This letter is in response to Mr. Cassidy’s letter regarding selling Santee Cooper, published on Dec. 18, 2020. All public and private electric utilities carry significant debt since they are in a capital-intensive industry with assets that last for 30-plus years. Public utilities such as Santee Cooper utilize tax-exempt financing and carry higher debt structures because they are not required to provide a return on investment to stockholders, allowing them to have lower rates.
The new management now in place at Santee Cooper has made great strides. The debt of Santee Cooper has been reduced by $700 million. Some debt has been refinanced for a savings of $340 million. 500 megawatts of solar have been contracted to be added to the generation mix that will save $12 million annually. Winyah 4 is being taken out of service and will be retired by the end of 2023, which will provide millions of dollars in operations and maintenance savings each year moving forward. The staff, including executives, at Santee Cooper has been reduced by over 200 employees in the past 2-1/2 years, creating savings of $10 million per year.
Dan Ray, chairman of the board of Santee Cooper, recently met with Palmetto Promise and experts from Clemson Economic Associates who agreed the assumptions that were used to show Santee Cooper’s debt increasing by $525 million by 2029 were incorrect. The experts treated depreciation as an expense when they did their analysis resulting in them grossly overestimating the amount of revenue required each year.
When the bid proposals were evaluated, NextEra will leave the taxpayers of South Carolina with significant financial liabilities if Santee Cooper is sold. If ratepayers wish to pay higher rates with less control, then selling Santee Cooper might be the best course of action; however, if lower rates with better state and local control are desired, then reforming Santee Cooper would be the best course of action for South Carolina. Santee Cooper has the lowest rates in South Carolina now and is projected to have the lowest rates in the future.
Glenn Stephens, Summerton
The Orangeburg school debt
It may be a unfair to blame the new Orangeburg County School District superintendent for the $11 million in unexpected school debt. After all, there is a great deal of administrative work, meetings with his support staff and the variety of instructors that he must deal with.
The finance staffs of all three former districts are fully responsible, along with the S.C. Department of Education and finance departments. Business as usual does not not cut it. Short-term mistakes, like needing one to two extra buses or forgetting a vendor payment, can happen. Tax increases to any and all citizens are totally irresponsible.
Solutions must be found.
Call vendors and request a financial break on payments with extended terms. Hopefully, vendors that have worked with the district will work out better terms.
Laying off teachers is not an option but cutting sports programs should be considered for the short term of six months. All need to understand now about cutting all costs for the short term.
All families must step up to the plate and do their part. The reality here is to find where the problems began and begin to find some replacements.
Mr. Superintendent, I know that it's kind of unfair to you, but you were left with this and the buck stops with you.
Geoffrey R. Fine, Orangeburg