In November of 2017, the Sultan City Council voted to implement a new utility rate structure which included a change in the base water rates, along with a reduction in the residential monthly allowance. The changes were adopted after a comprehensive rate study performed by utility financial planning firm Katy Isaksen & Associates, and careful consideration by Sultan’s elected officials.
To view Isaksen’s presentation, given to the Sultan City Council on November 2, 2017, please click here.
One of the primary goals in implementing the new rate structure was to distribute costs more equitably among the city’s water customers. Under the previous rate structure, the minimum residential water allowance was 600 cubic feet (CF) of water per month, which meant that a household using 300 CF paid the same monthly rate as a household using 550 CF per month.
The new structure establishes a residential water allowance of 300 CF per month, which gives customers more of a “pay as you go” system in terms of water usage.
According to 2017 consumption data, over 50 percent of Sultan’s water customers consume less than 600 CF per month. As such, the change in structure was viewed as a way to more accurately charge customers for the water they actually use. The new structure incentivizes conservation, giving customers the power to reduce their water bill through reductions in usage.
Under the old rate structure, a water customer using 700 CF per month would pay the base rate ($40.62 for 600 CF) plus an additional $3.68 for the 100 CF of overage. The resulting monthly charge was $44.30. Under the new rate structure, a customer using 700 CF pays the new base rate, (39.01 for 300 CF) plus $16.20 ($4.05 per 100 CF of overage) resulting in a monthly charge of $55.21.
The total increase for a customer using 700 CF is $10.91.
The benefit of the new rate structure is that it honors and recognizes customers who use 300 CF per month or less, by allowing them to pay a lower rate than a household using 400 CF per month. Under the old rate structure, a family who used 300 CF paid the same as a family who used 400, 500 or 600 CF. This was recognized as a less than equitable way to distribute the costs.
Another benefit of the new structure, is that it offers incentives to residents to solve leak issues. Under the former structure, a customer with a leak issue that didn’t cause their consumption to exceed the monthly allowance of 600 CF was not motivated to solve the problem.
The rate study was discussed during the multiple Sultan City Council meetings, including two workshops and two regular business meetings. Once the ordinance was passed on November 16, 2017, a notification was published on the Sultan website for review by the public. It was published in the December 2017 utility bill newsletter, and again referenced in the January 2018 utility bill newsletter, as a way to notify our customers of the impending changes.
The utility rate study was conducted to determine the best way for the city to continue to care for its customers but also invest in its infrastructure. Utility funding may only be used for utilities-related costs, so when the city receives transportation grants to fund road reconstructions, it seeks to invest in its aging infrastructure by adding modernized water and sewer lines at the same time. Accomplishing the projects together prevents the need to tear up a roadway more than once.
Over the last seven years, the city has systematically worked to retire 3,189 feet of antiquated, asbestos cement water line, replacing it with ductile iron. These improvements are critical in meeting the needs of the city’s water customers and improving fire flow in certain areas of the city.
For more information on a few of the projects slated for construction this year, including road reconstructions and utility line upgrades, please click here. For additional detail, click here to review the 2018 State of the City address, which will be presented during the Sultan City Council meeting on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Over the past year, the city has sought to enhance its ability to disseminate information by using its website to publish items of interest. An archive of previously published news items can be located here: https://ci.sultan.wa.us/news/. We strongly encourage community members to regularly visit our website and to follow the new city Facebook page to stay informed.
We are always open to suggestions on how to improve our communications strategy and are working towards adopting a “push not fetch” philosophy. Please email email@example.com for any communications-related concerns.
Members of the public are welcome give public comment during city council meetings, which take place on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. The next city council meeting takes place Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Please click here to view the agenda.
For a complete breakdown of the utility rate changes implemented in November of 2017, please click here: https://ci.sultan.wa.us/utility-rate-increases-to-be-reflected-in-january-2018-utility-bill/.