King County Council increases 2013 sewer rate

June 11, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4 p.m. June 11, 2012

King County Council members hiked the sewer rate for 2013 to $39.79 a month per residential customer.

The rate increase approved by the council Monday is less than the $39.85 rate King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed in April. Officials intend to keep the same rate in 2014.

The county charges the rate to 34 cities and sewer districts, including Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, to carry and treat wastewater. The amount ratepayers see on bills depends on local sewer utilities. Jurisdictions set rates independently, but typically pass along such costs to customers.

Officials focused on reduced operating costs in announcing the rate increase.

“This proposed sewer rate responsibly continues the county’s vital work in providing appropriate resources while continuing to be mindful of increasing costs in this economy,” Councilman Joe McDermott, Budget and Fiscal Management Committee chairman, said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing this work as we develop the 2013 budget for King County.”

The rate adopted by the council recommends offsetting the revenue lost from the difference between council’s rate compared to the executive’s rate by eliminating vacant, nonessential positions; reducing costs in the Wastewater Treatment Division; and sharing water-quality monitoring costs for the Lower Duwamish River.

“With our recovering economy, every penny saved for ratepayers makes a difference, so we’ve asked the executive to find $1 million in savings over the next two years in order to keep rates as low as possible,” Councilman Larry Phillips, Regional Water Quality Committee chairman, said in a statement. “This proposal strikes a balance between protecting water quality and protecting ratepayers’ wallets.”

Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District do not operate a treatment plant. Instead, the city pays the county to send wastewater to the South Treatment Plant in Renton.

The county provides sewer facilities to serve more than 1.5 million people spread across a 420-square-mile area in King County, and portions of Pierce and Snohomish counties.

In addition to the increase for residential customers, the legislation also calls for the capacity charge for sewer hookups to increase from $51.95 to $53.50 per month. The charge for customers entering the system provides funding for system upgrades and expansions needed to accommodate growth.

The capacity charge is assessed for 15 years after connection as established by code, but property owners can save 5.5 percent if they choose to pay a lump sum up front.

Officials said the capacity charge increase is devoted to repaying money for projects built in the past decade, including the $1.8 billion Brightwater treatment plant near Woodinville.

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