By Polson District Representative Charmel Gillin 

Meeting attendees called it a “great meeting” when the CSKT Director of Finance and Energy Keepers Incorporated (EKI) Chief Executive Officer provided detailed updates regarding corporate revenues, tribal council budgets, and the forecasted fiscal year 2020 (FY20) annual operating plan for EKI, and open floor for other topics.

Rick Eneas, CSKT Director of Finance, provided a very brief summary of the approximately $200 million overall tribal budget in order to pare down focus on the “dedicated trust fund” which contains investment and settlement revenues. When looking at “corporate dividends”, FY20 shows it at nearly $14 million (a portion of which is carry-forward). These revenues are available for a variety of uses to fund a portion of the CSKT government services out of the general fund, the water rights project fund, and a small portion for economic development.

Constituents asked about the approximately $1 million tribal council budget, of which approximately $200,000 is for discretionary spending. Eneas said details of the accounting for discretionary funds associated with the tribal council expense is not readily accessible within the software due to variety of vendors (such as various organizational dues or travel expense vendors: Mastercard, travel agency, hotels). His staff is working to improve the reporting capability.

Individuals responded with emphasis on their desire for transparency to improve trust between the government and the people. Accountability the tribal council owes the membership, was also emphasized. For example, one said, if my councilman or councilwoman went to Florida, how and when does he or she report the reason for the trip and what was gained by attending. It was pointed out that some governments pass laws to require transparency (rather than leaving it optional) and that may be something the CSKT can consider.

An interesting philosophical question posed to Eneas was, “Do you consider us members, citizens, or shareholders?” After some discussion, Eneas said, “members,” because shareholders expect returns on investments, but members have an expectation of access to their government to impact decision-making.

In a more visionary context, Eneas reported his team is developing a “white paper” on the topic of traditional and cultural values; how those values are present in the operation of the finance/business arm of the government. Ultimately he said his staff is working to develop better ways to communicate and improve resource management efforts by elevating skills through certifications, when possible.

Brian Lipscomb, EKI CEO, gave an overview of the Salish Ksanka Qlispe Dam and corporate structure which operates as an independent power producer, meaning it “generates power” and “trades its own power”. He briefed attendees on the forecasted generation of power considering the expected water year which starts October 1, 2019. Climate change is affecting watersheds and EKI has successfully managed multiple back-to-back challenging water years while satisfying operating needs as well as environmental needs.

The discussion on markets was received well as Lipscomb touched on the effects of fracking technology filling natural gas storage and continuing to lower energy trading prices. However, EKI strategies have stabilized risk factors by exercising forward contracts with industrial customers over the five year horizon. Other strategies, such as physical and financial trading in the open markets have stimulated revenue growth. EKI looks forward to adding another power trader to its staff in order to build this capacity.

Lipscomb said the Operations and Maintenance division completed the rehabilitation of the third generator unit and in FY20 they plan to fix gates. He explained that the unusual water years have kept them from draining the fore bay in order to accomplish the needed repairs. Thus, they will install stop logs which will allow an area where divers will be able to get the work done in the upcoming near term. EKI will also order a transformer, windings, and breakers to round out the FY20 rehab and betterment plan.

Lastly, he gave some insights about the company’s ability to analyze the markets and some strategies that might come to pass in the future….which sparked some degree of excitement in the small crowd.

Amid the informal presentations, other concerns included the reapportionment of tribal council seats to more populated districts and the timing. Should tribal members have unrestricted access to their government, as the CSKT Constitution states? Is there any other authority, rather than the CSKT Constitution? Tribal members in attendance were from Polson, Elmo, Hot Springs and St. Ignatius.

The next meeting will be October 16, as the September 18 meeting will be taken up by the Forestry/Small Logger/Commercial Woodcutter meeting scheduled that night. Please feel free to join both meetings.

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