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Rate increases proposed in Seattle Public Utilities draft business plan update

The postcards being sent to all SPU customers to invite public comment on the utility's business plan update. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE -- More than 300,000 postcards are in the mail for Seattle Public Utilities customers about the utility’s plans for the next 6 years.

Pay close attention to them. There’s some important information on the postcards about the utility's Strategic Business Plan (SBP), which serves as a road map for the utility. The plan, which is updated every 3 years, helps the utility outline its goals and priorities and gives customer an idea of what rate increases could look like over a 6-year period, a spokesman said.

LINK | Report on Seattle Public Utilities Strategic Business Plan update

"This is the back part," customer Carol Glenn said while looking at one of the postcards.

The moment it arrived in her mailbox late last week, she immediately saw dollar signs.

"Was like ‘Oh!' You know?" she said.

On a fixed income after her husband retired from Boeing last year, the couple already pays about $440 every 2 months for utilities at their home in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood, she said.

She’s frustrated by the thought of seeing it go up.

"I don’t know how we’re gonna do it," she said. "It’s so high right now already."

Under the Seattle Public Utilities draft business plan, the utility recommends an average rate increase of 5.5% each year from 2018-2023.

So, a typical bill next year would be about $187 and climb to about $251 by 2023.

One of the utility’s biggest focuses over the next few years is the Ship Canal Water Quality Project, which is required as part of a federal consent decree. The 2-and-a-half mile tunnel would help keep more than 50 million gallons of raw sewage and polluted runoff from getting into the Ship Canal, Salmon Bay, and Lake Union each year.

Jim Peterson wonders how the project and others will potentially impact his bottom line.

"Like a lot of families, we’re cash-flow sensitive," he said. "It has gotten very expensive to live here in Seattle."

Seattle Public Utilities and a volunteer customer review panel spent 10 months developing the utility’s business plan and got input from hundreds of customers and employees online and during public meetings held this past spring, a spokesman said.

A city council committee will start finalizing the plan next month.

The rate increases aren’t a done deal. The utility's annual budget and rate proposals are set through processes, a spokesman said.

But Glenn believes a higher bill is inevitable over time.

"We’ll just have to make do, I guess," she said. "Some way."

The first of 3 hearings on the business plan is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, 2017, at 9:30 A.M. It'll be held at Seattle City Hall. The other two hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, July 25, and Tuesday, August 8. Both begin at 9:30 A.M.

Seattle Public Utilities said customers can share their thoughts with Committee Chair Lisa Herbold at (206) 684-8803. Her email address is Lisa.Herbold@seattle.gov

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