On Tuesday the King County Council approved a 4.5% sewer rate and 3% capacity charge increase by a 6-3 vote. The new rates, effective in 2021, amount to a $47.37 monthly charge for sewer service and a $68.34 monthly capacity charge for new connections.
King County Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Pete von Reichbauer, and Rod Dembowski issued the following statements:
Vice Chair Dunn:
“Increasing the financial burden on King County residents and businesses in the middle of an economic crisis is not just tone deaf — it’s poor leadership. The County should be the first to keep our own operations as lean as possible to help our ratepayers through this time of financial hardship.”
Councilmember von Reichbauer:
“As elected officials, we should question any proposed tax increases, but given the COVID-19 crisis, now is not the time for any rate increases. I have heard from both constituents and elected officials, such as Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier, who have emphasized that now is not the time to increase rates when so many of our neighbors are struggling to pay at the current rate due to economic uncertainty and financial insecurity.”
“King County has an obligation to carefully balance its responsibility to manage our regional wastewater system and to guide our region through this unprecedented health and economic crisis. I firmly believe that now is not the time to add to the economic burden so many families and businesses are facing. For that reason, I proposed a one-year delay of the Executive-proposed 4.5% sewer rate increase. I believe the division could find $19 million in savings in a $500 million annual budget; in fact, I identified the savings in non-mandatory programming for them. Sadly, the majority of the Council voted to raise rates and keep spending unchanged, rather than wait one year.
“I believe we must first exhaust all options to reduce costs before we raise them on struggling ratepayers. It’s unfortunate that King County will add to hardships that folks will be facing in the year ahead as we try to recover from this crisis and get the economy restarted.”
The Metropolitan Water Pollution Abatement Advisory Committee, several cities and numerous elected officials recommended that King County authorize a zero percent rate increase for 2021. The Council rejected the request from these partners, who have previously supported regular rate increases.