Bonney Lake council votes to raise utility rates for 2017

After a month of discussion and deliberation the Bonney Lake City Council made its decision.

On May 23, the City Council voted for a 9 percent rate increase for the city’s water and a 5.5 percent increase for sewer.

The council decided to increase the rate only for July 2017, and to disregard the recommended percentages from the FCS Group — the firm hired by the city to create a study on Bonney Lake’s utilities.

The FCS proposal included a projection for the next five years, with an initial increase of 9 percent in July, another 9 percent increase in January 2018 and then a reduced rate increase with each following year.

Since the proposed rates were presented to the City Council on April 18, the final decision for the two rates were debated at length, particularly the water rate, and it showed in the final 4-3 vote.

Deputy Mayor Randy McKibbin and council members Tom Watson and Dan Swatman voted against the 9 percent rate that was recommended by FCS Group in favor of a 5 percent increase that was suggested by Watson last week.

“I am not in favor of this,” Watson said, referring to the 9 percent option.

Watson spoke about wanting to reduce the costs of upcoming capital improvement projects, including a new Public Works Center, in order to keep the rates low.

The capital projects that are scheduled will require $26.3 million for water and $9.8 million for sewer. More than $2.5 million coming from both water and sewer revenues are needed for Bonney Lake’s new Public Works Center.

“The rates have been held stagnant since 2009 (and) for each month, we lose money as a city. I move to raise the rates as necessary,” said Councilman Donn Lewis.

Due to the Great Recession in late 2008 and early 2009, the city decided to reduce its rates to help ease the financial burden for citizens at the time. According to Councilwoman Katrina Minton-Davis, the rates were cut by 19 percent, and she made the point that a 9 percent rate probably wouldn’t be enough.

The increases will go into effect in July 2017, though residences won’t see their bills go up until September or October, according to the city’s Chief Financial Officer Cherie Gibson.

As of June 1, Bonney Lake residents will start paying summer water rates, which are typically higher than winter water rates.

With the 9 percent rate increase starting in July, residents inside city limits will have to pay $1.37 for using up to 748 gallons per month, $2.96 for using between 749 and 1,500 gallons per month, $4.15 for using between 1,500 and 2,250 gallons per month, and $5.33 for more than 2,250 gallons per month.

The council also decided to not raise the System Development Charges, which are a one-time charge for new connections to the city’s water and sewer systems. Bonney Lake’s current SDC is $19,600.