As we turn the page on 2019, we are excited to report that your cooperative is in great shape. The year brought challenges with early snowstorms and a difficult harvest, but also marked member growth and financial stability.
The elephant in the room with respect to 2019 was the terribly difficult harvest that many of our members endured last fall. The inability to harvest much of what was planted will have long-term impacts on some of our members, or at least for some it will be a big step backward. The good news is our members are hardy and resilient and will work their way through this adversity.
The silver lining in all of this is your cooperative has set aside excess revenue in years past as deferred revenue. The ability to recognize that revenue throughout this temporary setback in sales will help stabilize our retail rates this year and into the future. Our rates remained unchanged for the third year in a row and we are projecting we will be able to maintain these rates throughout 2020 and possibly beyond.
Our new partner in the federal government proved to be a beneficial one. We completed our first full year under the utility privatization contract for the Grand Forks Air Force Base and Cavalier Air Force Station, and the results were even better than expected. The arrangement was both financially lucrative for us and rewarding for the government as we worked to provide reliable service within the installations and train our airmen in the art of linework.
Partnerships like these are just one of the ways we work to give back to the communities we serve. Another excellent example of our commitment to community is our member-supported Operation Round Up program. Our volunteer Operation Round Up board collects pennies from participants’ rounded up power bills and distributes grants to deserving individuals and organizations. To date, these grants of pennies have amounted to almost $1 million in charitable gifts to fill the needs in our communities. Thank you to all the members that participate and allow us to round up your bill to support this wonderful program.
For almost 80 years, Nodak Electric has worked to provide safe, affordable and reliable electric service for our member-owners. While that mission is clear, our greatest service to our members and employees is our culture of safety. Protecting our employees from the dangers of electric distribution work and our member-owners from the hazards that are inherent with electricity is job number one for us at Nodak.
Our first priority is that work gets done safely so everyone goes home to their families each night. Our safety record is good but can always be improved. In 2020, we aim to bolster those activities that encourage safety and ask that if you see anything across our distribution system you feel may be unsafe, let us know so we can investigate.
The coming years will continue to present both challenges and opportunities. The challenges we face, whether Mother Nature or legislative, will be met with the same determination our members fought back with from this year’s harvest. We will continue to strive to exceed your expectations for reliability, affordability and work to enhance the value of electricity for our consumer-members. As electrification continues to evolve, our opportunities are endless. We will continue our efforts to seize any opportunity we have to enhance your experience as a Nodak member and keep your rates affordable.
We would like to invite all of you to come to this year’s annual meeting to discuss the cooperative business even further. On behalf of the board of directors, management and staff, I’d also like to thank the employees of Nodak Electric for their continued dedication to the cooperative in carrying out our mission.