The Bonney Lake City Council voted to increase water and sewer rates back in July, and are currently considering more rate increases. File photo by Bailey Jo Josie

Bonney Lake continues to wrestle with water, sewer rates

The Bonney Lake City Council is once again looking at increasing its water and sewer rates.

During the Sept. 19 City Council workshop, the majority of the council considered whether water rates and sewer rates should increase by 4 and 4.5 percent respectively every year for the next four years.

A vote to officially increase the rates was expected during yesterday’s meeting, Sept. 26.

Raising the city’s utility rates has been an on-again, off-again discussion since the city hired FSC Group in 2016 to study Bonney Lake’s utility rates.

FCS suggested to the city that its utility rates should rise every year through 2022.

Water rates, the firm said, should go up 9 percent in 2017 and 2018, 8 percent in 2019 and 2020, 6 percent in 2021 and 5 percent in 2022.

Similarly, sewer rates were suggested to increase 5.5 percent in 2017 and 2018, 5 percent in 2019, 4 percent in 2020 and 2021, and 3 percent in 2022.

These increases, the firm said, were necessary to keep the utilities running in the black and cover costs for Department of Health required maintenance projects.

The council approved of FCS’s suggested utility rates for 2017, but declined to vote on future increases at the time in order to further examine how high future increases may need to be to cover costs.

FCS, along with RH2 engineering (another consulting firm) and city staff, continued to study the city’s needs. City Administrator Don Morrison summarized their findings in a Sept. 13 memo to the City Council.

Morrison said water utility revenue is enough to cover operating expenses and debt service payments, as well as contribute some funds to capital improvement projects to the system, but “a rate increase is needed to fund the CIP,” Morrison wrote.

Sewer is only seeing enough revenue to continue operating services, Morrison added, writing that a rate increase is needed to cover rising operating expenses, debt services and a reasonable CIP.

“Think of it this way: You’re making enough money to cover your daily expenses and make your mortgage payment, but you don’t have quite enough left to make your car payment,” he wrote.

FCS and RH2 recommended both utilities can continue to be funded with a 4 percent increase per year for four years.

“However, an estimated $1.4-1.5 million dollars would need to be issued in utility bonds in 2021 to complete the remaining projects unless projected SDC or operating revenues exceed estimates over the next few years,” Morrison wrote .

Multiple water projects, like a $1.5 million water main replacement or the $1.46 million Cedarview water main replacement, would still need to be scaled back or deferred into the future to accommodate these lower rate increases.

“The proposed sewer rate increase would be sufficient to fund the needed sewer capital improvement projects that have been recommended as part of the sewer comprehensive plan,” Morrison wrote. “However, if the recent Cedarview sewer project as envisioned by RH2 were to be included, an additional ½ percent would need to be added to the rate increase.”

As of the Sept. 26 meeting, both rate increases were tabled to the Oct. 10 meeting for action.

WATER RATE INCREASES

If the water rate increases are approved, Bonney Lake residents would start seeing their bills increase after Jan. 1, 2018.

In the winter, residents inside city limits would see their water bill jump from $1.37 to $1.43 for using up to 10 centum cubic feet (or 7480.5 gallons) of water per month, and from $2.71 to $2.82 for using more than 10 CCFs of water per month.

In the summer, city residents’ rates would go from $1.37 to $1.43 for 0 – 10 CCFs of water, $2.96 to $3.08 for 11 – 20 CCFs, $4.15 to $4.32 for 21 – 30 CCFs, and $5.33 to $5.54 for more than 31 CCFs.

Residents living outside city limits will also see their rates increase.

In the winter, rates for up to 10 CCFs of water will increase from $1.96 to $2.06, and from $3.95 to $4.11 for more than 10 CCFs.

In the summer, rates jump from $1.96 to $2.06 for up to 10 CCFs, $4.15 to $4.32 for 11 – 20 CCFs, $5.82 to $6.05 for 21 – 30 CCFs, and $8.13 to $8.46 for more than 31 CCFs.

Water rates would continue to increase by 4 percent every year through through 2022.

Water meter rates would also increase 4 percent every year throgh 2022.

SEWER RATE INCREASES

If the sewer rate increases are approved, Bonney Lake residents would start seeing their bills increase after Jan. 1, 2018.

For families that do not use a city-owned grinder pump, the sewer availability charge will increase from $61.06 to $63.80 per month.

Additionally, for every CFF of water (or 748 gallons) used, the volumetric charge will increase from $3.80 to $3.97, capping at $39.70 for 10 CFFs of water.

For those using a city-owned grinder pump, the sewer availability charge increases from $73.26 to $76.55.

The volumetric charge also increases from $3.80 to $3.97 for every CFF of water, capping at $39.70 for 10 CFFs of water.

Sewer rates would continue to increase by 4 percent every year through 2022.

SDC INCREASES

Bonney Lake’s Sewer Development Charges will also increase if the city approves of the rise in sewer rates.

Sewer Development Charges are a one-time fee for connecting a commercial business or home to the city’s sewer system.

Residents only have to connect to the city’s sewer system if a new home is built within 250 feet of an active sewer line, or when a home is bought or sold within 250 feet of an active sewer line.

Sewer lines are automatically expanded to connect to commercial properties when they are built.

If approved by the council, SDCs will rise from $10,505 to $11,606 effective Jan. 1, 2018.

There is an additional surcharge of $2,568 for those who connect to the city’s sewer system within the Fennel Creek Sewer Lift Station service area.