King County sewer rates go up

The King County Council approved a 2013 sewer rate of $39.79 a month, in a decision made last week. The $39.79 marks an increase for King County customers from the current rate of $36.10. The rate is lower than the rate of $39.85 proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The county indicates the new rate of $39.79 will also be the rate for 2014, and concedes that while it is an increase, savings will hopefully be passed on to customers through operational efficiency.

According to the county, 34 cities, local sewer utilities, and one tribe are served by the county's wastewater treatment agencies and programs. The funds raised by the sewer rate are used toward maintenance and operations for systems in King and South Snohomish counties, and a small portion of Pierce County.

Local municipalities also charge their own sewer rates, so the county's increase will affect that overall local bill. Federal Way is served by the Lakehaven Utility District.

Another increase regarding sewer rates will happen with the "new connections" charge, which is increasing by $1.55 from $51.95 to $53.50. This rate only affects new construction and projects that request to be hooked into the system.

Councilmember Joe McDermott, who steers the county's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, feels the new rate is a solid decision for both the county and it's citizens.

"This proposed sewer rate responsibly continues the County's vital work in providing appropriate resources while continuing to be mindful of the increasing costs of this economy," he said.

Councilmember Larry Phillips, also sees the new rate a strong combination of covering the County's needs, while trying to impact the taxpayers as little as possible.

"With our recovering economy, every penny saved for taxpayers makes a difference, so we've asked the executive to find $1 million in savings over the next two years to keep rates as low as possible," said Phillips. "This proposal strikes a balance between protecting water quality and protecting ratepayers' wallets."

The council has proposed a number of places to trim some fat within the county's wastewater department, in order to make up for the difference of six cents between their rate and the Executive's proposed rate. Among them are:

• Eliminating 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


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