We are constantly looking for ways to make meaningful cuts to our operating expenses in an effort to keep the cost of your electricity as low as possible. Last month, I reported on an evaluation of automated meter reading, which we found would increase, not decrease, the cost of providing your electrical needs. On this basis, we have at least tentatively put on hold any thoughts of implementing a completely automated meter reading system.
Another area we have given attention to in recent months is our expenditures on publications. For decades, we have been publishing an internal monthly magazine for all members called the Nodak Neighbor. We also have been providing a magazine published by our Statewide Trade Association in Mandan on a monthly basis. This magazine was previously called the North Dakota REC/RTC magazine, and recently was renamed the North Dakota Living magazine. Both of these magazines have value as they contain information that is related to our business, and other information that is just plain interesting to read. The reality, however, is that they both cost money to produce, and the cost is paid by you when you pay your electric bill. The annual cost to print and mail the Nodak Neighbor is roughly $40,000, and the annual cost to print and mail the North Dakota Living magazine is roughly $135,000.
Last month, I reported on customer survey results regarding the automated meter reading issue. In that same research, we asked our customers several questions about these two publications. In that research, we found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed at least occasionally read the Nodak Neighbor, and two-thirds at least occasionally read the North Dakota Living magazine (not necessarily the same two-thirds). When asked which publication they enjoyed the most, 28% preferred the North Dakota Living magazine, 20% preferred the Nodak Neighbor, and 50% said they had no preference. The people surveyed were then told the cost to produce each of the two publications. Following this information, they were asked which one they would prefer Nodak provide if in the interest of cost containment we were to only provide one of the two publications. With this information, 44% said Nodak should provide the Nodak Neighbor, 29% said Nodak should provide the North Dakota Living magazine, and 26% had no preference.
With this information, your board of directors has taken action that will both save your cooperative money, as well as keep you informed about important issues in the future. Effective January 2003, Nodak will discontinue providing the North Dakota Living magazine at no charge. If you would like to continue receiving the North Dakota Living magazine, you will be given an opportunity to remain on the mailing list at a cost of $1.00 per month, which will be added to your power bill. For those who enjoy reading the North Dakota Living magazine, this is a bargain price for a quality product.
We will continue providing the Nodak Neighbor as a way of communicating important business information to you. The frequency, however, will be reduced from twelve issues per year to six issues per year, plus an annual report. This solution is consistent with the research results from our survey, and consistent with our effort to contain operating costs while still communicating effectively with our customers. In recent years, we have often made the statement that change will be necessary for us to remain a strong electric utility in the future. This decision is yet another of those changes that isnâ€™t always popular with everyone, but still necessary. Watch for further information on this issue and opportunities to sign up for continued delivery of the North Dakota Living magazine at a modest charge.