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Council approves 2013 sewer rate that focuses on reducing expenditures


Lower rate comes with recommendations to offset lost revenues


The Metropolitan King County Council today approved a 2013 sewer rate that will increase the rate, but also focuses on reducing operating costs. The county sewer rates will increase to $39.79 a month per residential customer equivalent starting in 2013 with the intention of keeping the same rate for 2014. The new rate is an increase from 2012, but lower than the Executive’s 2013 proposed rate of $39.85.

“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,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “I look forward to continuing this work as we develop the 2013 Budget for King County.”

“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,” said Regional Water Quality Committee Chair Larry Phillips. “This proposal strikes a balance between protecting water quality and protecting ratepayers’ wallets.”

The sewer rate adopted by the Council recommends offsetting the revenue lost from the Council's rate compared to the Executive's with a possible combination of operating cuts and efficiencies. The recommendations include:

• Elimination of vacant, non-critical positions in the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) and the Department of Natural Resources and Parks,
• Reducing costs in WTD’s supplies and services budget for items that had underexpenditures, such as office supplies,
• Sharing costs of water quality monitoring for the Lower Duwamish River.

King County protects our region's water quality and prevents water pollution by providing wastewater treatment to 34 cities, local sewer utilities, and one tribe serving customers touching three counties. 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. 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 2013 of $53.50 per month for the average household, an amount that represents a $1.55 increase from the 2012 monthly charge of $51.95. 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.

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