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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Utility rate increases of 2.9 percent through 2020 approved by unanimous City Council

A 68-gallon trash cart will cost Spokane homeowners 87 cents more a month beginning in 2018, part of a 2.9 percent increase across all utilities approved by the City Council on Monday night. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane residents will continue to see the cost of city services rise for the next three years.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to increase rates for water, sewer and garbage hauling by 2.9 percent each year through 2020.

The locked-in rates, which take effect Jan. 1, will allow the city to continue to build the pipes and tanks needed to keep sewage out of the Spokane River, as well as provide new services, like smoothing some of the more treacherous alleyways around town, officials said.

Those services will be provided at a price below what is paid by residents of other similar-sized Washington cities, according to the city’s Public Works Department.

A rebate program that would grant a $10 monthly credit to the accounts of qualifying homeowners older than 61 years was put on hold Monday night so the city could explore the option of extending the credit to those with disabilities when the new rate system begins next year.

Homes using about 500 gallons of water a day and a 68-gallon trash cart should expect to see a $3.47 increase in their monthly bill next year. That figure grows to $10.57 by 2020.

The rate increases continue a pledge Mayor David Condon made during his first run for office in 2012 to cap increases to inflation. The 2.9 percent change is tied to the city’s 25-year estimate of average inflation. Rates have risen 2.9 percent every year since 2014.

Condon presented the plan to the City Council with a chart showing that Spokane’s utility costs were less than those in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma. Based on a typical four-member household, Spokane services cost about $60 less monthly than in Tacoma, and $160 less than Seattle.

The proposed rate increase would save the average Spokane household about $500 annually over rate hikes that were floated in the years before he took office, Condon said.

“Simply, our utilities were becoming rapidly unaffordable, and we needed to change that direction,” the mayor said.

The lone objector Monday night was Donna Rae Lands, a Pend Oreille County resident who said her children lived in Spokane and she wanted to eventually relocate. Lands urged the council not to increase the rates, which she called “off the charts.”

City Council President Ben Stuckart defended the rate increases, saying they provided both the residents and the city’s financial planners some certainty when planning future system upgrades.

“It helps our credit rating, if you have it predictable,” Stuckart said.