Fiscal stability while ensuring that regional needs are met
StoryKeeping their pledge to provide rate stability for customers, the Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to maintain county sewer rates at $36.10 a month per residential customer equivalent for 2012. King County protects our region's water quality and prevents water pollution by providing wastewater treatment to 17 cities and 17 local sewer utilities serving customers touching three counties.
“In 2011, the Council made a promise to our residents to hold sewer rates steady in 2012,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “I am please we are able to keep that promise and deliver a sewer rate that doesn't increase one cent over last year, while still maintaining our commitment to serve the growing sewer needs of our region's 1.5 million customers.”
“King County is responsible for a wastewater treatment system that serves a population spread out over three counties,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett, Chair of the Regional Water Quality Committee. “Our challenge is to maintain that system and provide this valuable service in an efficient and cost effective manner. The current rate, and our vote to maintain that rate, meets that challenge.”
“Keeping sewer rates steady next year will provide King County residents with some relief as we continue to climb out of this recession,” said Transportation, Economy and Environment Chair Councilmember Larry Phillips. “We must continue sound fiscal and environmental management of our wastewater treatment facilities and operations in order to provide the best value to the people of King County.”
The funds raised through sewer rates go toward maintaining and operating the regional wastewater system 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 for which King County provides wastewater conveyance and treatment. Those jurisdictions independently set the rates that appear on bills sent to customers, adding in their own costs.
Consistent with the Council’s long-standing policy that “growth pays for growth,” members also approved a sewer capacity charge for new connections to the system in 2012 of $51.95 per month for the average household, an amount that represents a $1.50 increase from the 2011 monthly charge of $50.45. The current rate continues to ensure that there will be wastewater conveyance and treatment capacity to meet the growing needs of the suburban communities.
The capacity charge for new sewer hook-ups is paid by owners of newly-constructed homes and businesses that generate the growth, and therefore the demand for service, which requires the construction of new treatment and conveyance facilities such as Brightwater, which is scheduled to go online later this year. 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.
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.