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County Council holds the line on 2010 sewer rate

Summary

Controlling costs and prioritizing projects leads to same $31.90 per month rate for next year

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council continued its policy of stability, predictability and certainty for ratepayers with its unanimous adoption today of a sewer rate for 2010 that maintains the current 2009 rate of $31.90 per month.

“In today’s tough economic times, it’s commendable that the Wastewater Treatment Division has managed to keep its operating costs virtually the same as last year and is on target with its long-range capital spending projections,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, Chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “This translates into stable fees for county ratepayers.”

“Holding down costs and keeping sewer rates at last year’s levels helps King County residents struggling to pay their bills during this deep recession,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Council’s Regional Water Quality Committee. “It’s more critical than ever to control costs and operate efficiently so we can pass those savings on to ratepayers.”

The County was able to hold the line on sewer rates thanks to a concerted effort to keep operational costs down while prioritizing capital projects. The adopted rate will continue to support construction of Brightwater, the region’s third major wastewater treatment facility, and offset moderate increases in the cost of maintenance and operation of the regional wastewater system that serves customers in King County, south Snohomish County and a small portion of Pierce County.

The amount ratepayers see on their actual bills will depend on their local sewer utility. The sewer rate is charged to the 34 cities and sewer districts to which King County provides wastewater conveyance and treatment. Those jurisdictions independently set the rates that appear on bills sent to customers.

Consistent with the Council’s long-standing policy that “growth pays for growth,” members also approved a sewer capacity charge for new sewer hook-ups in 2010 of $49.07 per month, an amount that incorporates a 3 percent inflationary adjustment from the 2009 monthly charge of $47.64.

The capacity charge for new hook-ups is paid by owners of newly-constructed homes and businesses who create the growth in demand that requires the construction of new treatment facilities such as Brightwater. The capacity charge is assessed for 15 years after connection, as established by state law, but property owners can save 5.5 percent if they choose to pay a lump sum upfront.

Today’s vote ensures that King County meets its contractual obligation to its 34 customer utilities to have the sewer rate for the coming year in place by June 30 of each year.


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