City Updating Utility Rates for 2021 through 2023

Water savings emphasis and switch to every other week residential recycling collection included

Marlene Feist, Public Works, (509) 625-6505

Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 2:06 p.m.

The City of Spokane is updating utility rates for 2021 through 2023 that are designed to continue to provide customers with predictable and affordable rates for their water, wastewater, and solid waste services.

The rate proposals include 2.9 percent annual increases for the services, adhering to a long-standing commitment by the City’s elected leaders to limit utility rate increases to 2.9 percent yearly while navigating higher costs for recycling and lower revenues due to the pandemic.

The proposals also include changes that would reward customers for lower water use and manage rising recycling costs through a switch to every other week recycling collection for residential customers. Rates would change on Jan. 1 of each year, based on the proposals. A date for the change to every other week recycling for residential areas will be announced.

“Our citizens and our businesses need us to limit costs and make decisions that recognize these tough times,” says Mayor Nadine Woodward. “We are living up to our long-term commitment to hold down rates, making choices to change operations rather than charge more, and asking customers who access specialty services to pay for the cost of those services rather than burdening other customers.”

For 2021, a typical residential customer’s City utility bill would increase by just $1.67 a month—or just 1.3 percent under the rate changes. That’s because of newly designed rate tiers for water use that are part of the proposals and would reduce charges for many water users much of the year.

Under the changes, 90 percent of customers would have the same or lower bills for at least half the year, and half wouldn’t pay more during summer irrigation season either. The median increase for residential customers would be $11 total over the 3 summer months.

The new tier structure does add a fifth, higher-cost tier for customers who use more than 21,000 gallons of water in a month. Year-round median use among residential customers is about 6,000 gallons a month. A look at the revised tiers is on the City’s web site.

The water tier changes are consistent with the Water Conservation Master Plan adopted by the City Council this summer, which endeavors to encourage customers to use less water particularly during the summer months when water use soars in Spokane. The City also offers a variety of rebates and bill credits for customers who add water-saving equipment or landscaping. Reducing summertime peak demand for water ultimately will reduce the need for larger infrastructure to serve growth.

A typical monthly City utility bill includes charges for water, wastewater, stormwater and solid waste and assumes 15,000 gallons of water use a month and a 68-gallon garbage cart. Customers should expect a typical monthly bill to go up less than $4 in the later years of 2022 and 2023.

Customers who access specialty services, like wastewater pre-treatment, septage disposal, and installation of new meters would pay rates that cover the cost of these services. Additionally, customers who take garbage or compost directly to the Waste-to-Energy facility will pay a $2 self-haul transaction fee, consistent with costs at the Spokane County transfer stations. All City of Spokane residents already have curbside collection of garbage and recycling.

The proposals also maintain:

  • The City’s monthly credit for low-income seniors and disabled persons who qualify for State of Washington property tax exemptions granted through Spokane County.
  • The U-Help program that provides low-income households with emergency assistance to help pay their City utility bills.
  • The monthly credit that benefits the 20 percent of customers who use the least amount of water indoors.
  • New interest-free payment plans to assist customers who have gotten behind on their utility bills due to the pandemic.

The rates also will cover the cost of operating significant new wastewater infrastructure that has been constructed in the last several years, including two dozen tanks to manage overflows from combined sewers and a major expansion at the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility. Capital charges for customers with only water or only wastewater services also are included.

The City Council approved the solid waste proposals this week, and are expected to vote on the water and wastewater proposals at their regular 6 p.m. meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.