Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Seattle City Council: No Utility Rate Increases in 2009
Environment and Energy Committee chairs will not consider electric, sewer and drainage rate increases
SEATTLE – City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell have notified Mayor Nickels that they will not consider electricity, sewer, or drainage rate increases for 2009. Conlin and Harrell do not want to add financial strain to residents and local businesses struggling to make ends meet during a recessionary economy that has lost jobs, investments, and home values.
Seattle Public Utilities and City Light, facing revenue shortfalls, have been planning to request rate increases in 2009. However, rather than place additional burden on Seattle ratepayers to cover these costs, Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Richard Conlin are challenging both utilities to come up with alternative solutions to manage budgets with existing rates.
Last year, the Council cut over $25 million in proposed increases from Seattle Public Utilities’ water and solid waste rate proposals. Today, City Council President Richard Conlin announced that, as Chair of the Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee, he will not consider a rate increase for SPU’s drainage and waste water proposal. “It’s always tough to balance the capital and maintenance costs of our systems with the needs of customers,” said Conlin, “I’ve decided that we simply can not ask Seattle residents and businesses to take another hit.”
“With the economy as it is and increases that have been imposed on other services in the past year, passing the burden on to rate payers is the last solution we want to see at this time,” stated Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the Council’s Energy and Technology Committee.
The Council is also taking a close look at the cuts to energy conservation and customer service proposed by City Light. At a briefing on the City Light proposal, it came to light that some of the cuts could lead to additional electricity outages and other events that, rather than save money, might create additional costs. Cuts in conservation result in less energy than City Light can sell on the open market, and opens up the possibility that the City would have to buy additional electricity on the open market if energy usage exceeds the City’s supply.
In a memo sent to City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco today, The City Council asked Carrasco to take another look at the utility’s budget with the goal of identifying reductions that will bring actual savings.
Council meetings are cablecast live on Seattle Channel 21 and Webcast live on the City Councils website at www.seattle.gov/council. Copies of legislation, archives of previous meetings, and news releases are available on www.seattle.gov/council. Questions about Council news releases can be directed to Kimberly Reason, Council Communications, at 206-684-8159, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.