November 19, 2013 in City

Spokane City Council OKs water, trash, sewer rate hikes

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane’s trash, water and sewage bills will rise 2.9 percent next year.

The Spokane City Council adopted rate increases Monday that were proposed by Mayor David Condon. The votes were 5-1.

The average city utility bill will climb to $110.71 a month. That’s for a bill that includes service for the mid-size, 68-gallon trash cart.

Condon was critical of rate increases that occurred in the years previous to him taking office in 2012 and has pledged to hold utility rates to inflation.

His predecessor, Mary Verner, had proposed rates in line with a rate study that called for sewage rate increases of 10 percent or more annually for several years to deal with several wastewater construction projects that were expected to cost about $500 million.

Councilman Mike Allen said sticking with a number based on inflation is fair and depoliticizes rates. Verner had criticized previous mayors for ignoring the need for rate increases during election years.

“This creates a consistent environment for our utilities,” Allen said.

Utilities Director Rick Romero said city officials scrutinized construction projects and have a new plan that will cost closer to $300 million. The city is proposing to borrow that money from the state with a low interest rate.

Most of the projects are aimed at stopping the flow of raw sewage into the Spokane River when it rains and improving sewage at the city’s wastewater plant.

Councilman Jon Snyder cast the lone votes against the increases. He said the city should create a utility rate commission to further depoliticize the process and give voice to city utility customers who live outside city limits.

Councilwoman Amber Waldref said she hopes administrators consider the city’s current flat rate structure for wastewater service to single-family homes. She noted that some cities charge rates based on how much water they use in the winter to get a sense of how much water they use ends up flowing into sewers (as opposed to on their lawns).

Monthly wastewater charges in 2014 for homeowners will be $52.87.

“We charge everybody the same amount no matter how much they are contributing to the treatment plant,” Waldref said.

Water and sewer rates for 2013 were increased by 3.5 percent, an amount based on the consumer price index. Trash rates were frozen.

The price index currently is only about 1.5 percent. Romero said the 2.9 percent proposal is based on the 25-year average of the price index. He said the city is likely to stick to that formula for raising rates in future years.

Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she’s OK with using the higher figure, especially compared to the double-digit percentage increases proposed just a few years ago.

Council President Ben Stuckart was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Trash rates
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved new utilities rates for 2014. Rates will increase by 2.9 percent. The following are the change in rates for trash service.
Cart type20132014
32-gallon$14.82$15.25
95-gallon$39.18$40.32
Yard waste*$14.16$14.57
Note: Customers from single-family homes are not charged extra for recycling service.
*March through November

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