Having made the leap into a new year, Enumclaw property owners are now seeing increases to nearly all their utility rates.
Utilities are lumped into the category of “enterprise funds,” meaning they have to pay for themselves. Collections from customers must match expenses, with no subsidy from other segments of the municipal budget.
Here’s a look at the 2018 increases for city services, along with the financial impact on customers.
City ratepayers are feeling the impact of a two-year, two-step increase. It was late 2016 when members of the City Council voted to implement a 9 percent rate hike for 2017 with an additional 5 percent increase this month. The result was three rate bumps in four years: there had been no increase in 2016, but rates had climbed 3 percent in 2015.
This year’s increase – according to information provided when the council passed the two-year bump – means a typical residential customer with a single 32-gallon can and yard waste service will pay $1.70 more per month.
According to the city’s budget document, the utility collects garbage and recyclables from approximately 3,600 retail customers within the city limits. Yard waste is collected from approximately 2,700 customers.
The solid waste increase was the result of two factors. First, fees at King County’s regional landfill had increased, meaning the city had to pay more. Second, the city moved to an automated system for trash collection, resulting in the purchase of new trucks and new trash bins for customers.
When it comes to charges for water, the city code allows for an annual increase tied to the Seattle-area Consumer Price Index. For 2018, that means an increase of 3 percent.
To provide water, the city draws from four sources. Should an emergency arise, Enumclaw has an agreement with Tacoma, which has a supply line running through town.
The city’s wastewater utility also is allowed an annual rate increase dictated by the Seattle-area CPI, meaning a 3 percent increase for this utility, as well.
The wastewater utility has nine pump stations and 47 miles of collection mains serving 3,470 retail customers. Collections are treated at the plant along state Route 410 before being discharging into the White River.
The only city utility showing no rate increase is natural gas. The 4,400 customers served by the 95 miles of distribution lines – both within the city limits and in surrounding areas – are paying the same as in 2017.
THE COMING UTILITY
The city’s utility scene will change dramatically later in the year, as will be monthly bill for residential and commercial customers.
Enumclaw will join nearly every other city in the region when it forms a stormwater utility, a move that is expected to come in August. Efforts to deal with stormwater continue to be funded from the city’s General Fund, siphoning money from other municipal functions.
Stormwater consists primarily of rainfall, but can include water from washing cars and sprinkling lawns and gardens. Essentially, it means any water that doesn’t percolate into the ground.
Because water picks up contaminants as it runs off impervious surfaces – roads, parking lots and driveways, for example – the federal Clean Water Act holds communities accountable. Taking care of wastewater cost Enumclaw more than $400,000 during 2017.
Costs have not been set in stone, but a rate analysis arrived at a monthly cost of $4.38 per single-family home, while businesses would pay $4.38 for every 3,200 square feet of impervious surface.