Tacoma City Council committee recommends utility rates increase

Tacoma City Council’s Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a recommendation to increase the rates of three environmental services utilities over the next five years.

If approved by the full City Council next month, Solid Waste, Waste Water, and Surface Water rates would increase annually on average 5.3 percent, 6.2 percent, and 7.8 percent, respectively, between 2009 and 2013.

Public Works staff presented the information during the council committee’s public meeting Nov. 4. According to data provided at the meeting, the rates are expected to change as follows:

— Solid Waste rates would increase nearly 30 percent between 2009 and 2013: five percent per year in 2009 and 2010, 5.2 percent in 2011, 5.6 percent in 2012, and 5.7 percent in 2013. Public Works staff point to increased expenses and a drop in revenue for the adjustment;

— Waste Water rates would increase 6.2 percent per year between 2009 and 2013, for a cumulative increase of 35.1 percent. Public Works staff point to increases in debt service and assessments, and an eight percent reduction in commercial customer usage as reasons for the rate adjustment;

— Surface Water rates would increase 7.8 percent per year between 2009 and 2013, for a cumulative increase of 45.6 percent. Public Works staff cite a $1 million increase in debt service, a need for $1.4 million to be environmentally compliant, and increases in assessments for the rate adjustment.

On Sept. 18, Tacoma’s Environmental Services Commission, an 11-member commission representing the city’s business, residential, and regulatory concerns, wrote a letter in support of the recommendations to City Manager Eric Anderson. Also, the environment and public works committee discussed the issue during its public meetings Oct. 8 and Oct. 22.

The rate increases would be reflected in an ordinance presented to the full City Council next month. City Council is expected to discuss the topic during a budget workshop Nov. 24. On Dec. 2, councilmembers are expected to hear the first reading of an ordinance adjusting the rate. It will hear a second reading Dec. 9 before voting on the ordinance.