Stormwater utility to increase

Other utility rates will remain the same, however.

Those who pay for Enumclaw utilities will be happy to know their rates for both water and sewer services will not be increasing during the year to come.

Now the bad news: the same cannot be said for the still-new stormwater utility.

Utility rates were part of the City Council agenda on Nov. 12.

When it comes to the rates Enumclaw charges its customers for water and sewer service, action must be taken to prohibit an increase. The Enumclaw Municipal Code dictates that water and sewer rates are to be adjusted annually, tied to the Consumer Price Index for the Seattle-Tacoma area.

In a memo to the City Council, Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln explained that anticipated 2020 revenues should be sufficient. For water, taking the CPI increase would have meant an additional $101,200 next year; however, anticipated revenues, combined with cash reserves, are expected to allow the water utility to survive without a rate increase.

The sewer utility expects to take in almost $4.4 million next year and can exist without the CPI adjustment of $131,500, Lincoln wrote in his council memo.

A separate utility to address stormwater was long talked about in City Hall circles and was finally created in late November 2017. A monthly rate of $5.24 was established and the city began collecting the fee in January of this year.

The $5.24 is for an Equivalent Service Unit, which applies to the average single-family home. Businesses can be assessed for several ESUs monthly, based on a number of factors.

Now nearing the end of a full year of collections, the revenue stream isn’t healthy, according to a separate Lincoln memo to the council. The situation, he wrote, is a combination of greater-than-anticipated expenses and fewer-than-expected customers.

Forecasting into 2020, Lincoln wrote, “it became abundantly clear that the rate of $5.24 was not sustainable.” The options, he said, were a substantial subsidy from the city’s general fund or a rate increase.

In the end, a new monthly rate of $6.50 per ESU was both recommended and approved by council. The difference amounts to $1.26 per month for the average homeowner or a bit more than $15 annually. The increase for businesses, apartment complexes, etc., will depend upon the number of ESUs they’re assessed.

The increase takes effect Jan. 1.

Even with the increase, Lincoln said, Enumclaw will still have the lowest stormwater rate in the region. Information provided to council shows 2019 rates are $23.77 in Buckley, $20 in Orting, $19.51 in Auburn, $16.33 in Sumner, $16 in Black Diamond and $14 in Bonney Lake.

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