SPU seeks public input on utility's future

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is seeking the public’s help in developing a strategic business plan to guide the utility’s investments, services and rates through the year 2020.

A series of community meetings will provide public direction for the utility:

•Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at Garfield Community Center (2323 E. Cherry St.);

•Feb. 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at Magnuson Park’s Brig (6344 N.E. 74th St.);

•Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at North Seattle Community College (9600 College Way N.), Room CC1161 in the Conference Center; and

•March 1, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Van Asselt Community Center (2820 S. Myrtle St.).

In addition to the public meetings around the city, SPU will conduct targeted outreach to low-income and African-American community members, as well as in-language focus groups with Vietnamese-, Chinese-, Spanish-, Somali-, and Khmer-speaking communities.

Customers who can’t attend a community meeting are invited to take a survey online and learn more at www.seattle.gov/util.

Last year, Seattle City Council asked SPU to develop a predictable and transparent six-year business plan for water, sewer and garbage/recycling rates. In creating the strategic plan, the utility was asked to conduct an activity-by-activity evaluation of its spending to identify reasonable future growth in costs and rates.

As a starting point for its discussion with customers, SPU has developed a baseline estimate of the cost of maintaining its operations at current service levels. With no changes in its present business plans, the utility would require rate increases of about 4.7 percent a year, for the next six years. For an average household, utility bills would go from $325 in 2015 to $422 in 2020 — about $16 a year.

The main drivers of those projected baseline rate increases are inflation, 53 percent; debt payment, 28 percent; contracts, 12 percent; and taxes, 7 percent.

The business plan, which will be presented to the mayor and City Council this summer, will address not only growth in utility rates from a perspective of covering SPU’s operating costs — but also the growth in utility bills from the perspective of customers’ ability to pay.

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