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Hike In Utility Rates Proposed To City Council Cost To Average Ratepayer Would Be $8.88 More In ‘96

Most Spokane city residents can expect a 74-cent jump in their monthly utility bills next year if the City Council goes along with proposed rate hikes.

The higher tab would cost the average user $8.88 in 1996.

Directors of the city’s three utility departments detailed their budget proposals to the council Monday. While the water and sewer departments are asking for an increase, the solid waste department isn’t.

Irv Reed, the city’s director of planning services, showed the council a chart comparing average utility costs in Spokane with those in six other Washington cities.

At $37.34 a month, Spokane’s was the lowest. Seattle came in at $86.96, Tacoma at $55.02.

“These utility rates are very good,” Reed said.

Also unveiled to the council were proposals to raise tipping fees at the trash incinerator and transfer stations by $5 a ton - from $92 to $97 - and golf course greens fees about 1.8 percent.

Department heads blamed at least part of the proposed rate increases on the city’s plans to charge its departments for such things as rent, accounting and maintenance.

City Manager Roger Crum recently began doing that to recoup City Hall costs and balance the city’s troubled general fund, which pays for things such as police, firefighting and public works.

If the council accepts the proposed changes, utility rates could go up 1.5 percent next year. Last year, those same rates jumped about 3 percent, adding $1.47 to the average monthly bill.

The proposed rate and services changes boil down to these:

Water. Boosting residential rates 3 percent, translating to a 48-cent rate increase. That means a family using 15,000 gallons a month will pay $16.60 instead of this year’s $16.16.

The water department needs the rate hike to build cash reserves to replace the aging system, said Director John Bjork.

Sewage. Increasing residential rates about 1.8 percent, bumping the monthly charge 26 cents from $14.55 to $14.81.

The increase will help pay for expansion and maintenance of the system, said Director Gale Olrich.

Solid waste. No rate increase. Director Dennis Hein does propose dumping the $20 disposal pass given every city household this year.

Incinerator and transfer stations. Raising tipping fees 5.2 percent, from $92 to $97 a ton. Last year, fees jumped from $85 to $92 a ton.

The increase will help pay for closing landfills, as well as build cash reserves for pending litigation, said Phil Williams, director of the Regional Solid Waste System.

Golf. The Parks Department is asking to raise greens fees an average 1.8 percent, bumping a resident’s cost of playing 18 holes at Downriver from $13.50 to $14, a nonresident’s cost at Qualchan from $21.75 to $22.

“Not all fees are impacted,” said Mike Stone, the department’s codirector.

A series of hearings on the city’s proposed budget begin next week.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Proposed increases

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