Utility rate changes on hold for public input in Bonney Lake

The Bonney Lake City Council this past week tabled a pair of ordinances related to utility rate changes in order to give the public an opportunity to comment on the measures.

The council tabled the two ordinances May 8 because of a proposed change from their discussions at the prior week’s workshop meeting.

Initially, the council was to discuss a reduction in the summer sprinkling rates, but at the May 2 workshop, Mayor Neil Johnson proposed a simple $5 reduction in the base water rate, which would provide everyone in the city with savings, not just those who wouldn’t be charged additional rates for watering their lawns during the summer.

The council seemed to be on board with the mayor’s proposal, which would offset for most people a 10 percent increase in sewer rates necessary to bring the revenues for the utility inline with the operating costs.

But city officials worried about the loss of guaranteed revenue in the form of base rates countered with a proposal that reduces the base rate by $2.69 and adjusts consumption charges for summer months.

According to city documents, simply dropping the base rate by $5 would result in a loss of more than $774,000 in revenue, whereas the latest proposal only drops revenue by $345,790.

The change also comes in light of a first quarter report that shows water revenues down by almost 7 percent so far this year over the same period last year.

Johnson said he was still in favor of the $5 drop, but called the proposal from staff a “good solution” to balance things out.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman also said he supports the compromise position brought forward by staff, but since it is not a time sensitive matter, he felt further discussion was warranted and would like to get public comment on the issue.

The water rate decrease ordinance was tabled to Tuesday’s workshop, as was the sewer rate increase, which the council felt should move forward with the water ordinance.

The city is planning to increase sewer costs by 10 percent per year for the next four years in an attempt to bring the utility’s revenues in line with its operation costs.

According to city figures, the increase should mean about $5 additional per month to the average family in Bonney Lake, which pays approximately $51 per month for sewers.

Public comment on both ordinances was scheduled for Tuesday’s council workshop. A vote on the ordinances is expected May 15.

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