Jefferson County PUD approves water rate increases

Utility board still discussing potential electric rate hike

PORT TOWNSEND — Water rates for Jefferson County Public Utility District customers will rise by an average of about 16 percent for the next three years beginning in June and a smaller increase in 2024.

PUD commissioners continue to discuss potential electric rate increases. They will deliberate more at their next meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The final vote is expected on May 18, said Will O’Donnell, PUD communications director.

The commissioners approved the water rate increase April 20 after their consultant, FCS Group, reported that expenses for water and sewer services in 2020 overtook revenues, and while it’s expected that the 2021 budget for electricity will be $1.6 million in the black, a $400,000 shortfall from water services is anticipated, O’Donnell said in a press release.

The water rate increase includes an average increase of 16 percent each year across all customer types in 2021, 2022 and 2023, with a 6.75 percent increase in 2024, O’Donnell said.

Also, an additional $5 capital surcharge for water customers is planned each month starting in 2022, O’Donnell said.

There will be no consumption increase for 2021 for most water users. But Kala Point customers will be brought up to be in line with the rest of the county through a hike per 100 gallons, from 25 cents to 27 cents under 5,000 gallons of water used in 2021 to 31 cents in 2022, according to the PUD’s website.

For the residential PUD customer using an average of 4,200 gallons each month per year, rates would increase from $37.83 currently to $44.83 per month this year, $52.78 per month in 2022, $61.06 in 2023 and $65.51 per month in 2024, according the website.

“This is to catch up, this isn’t even to make up,” said District 3 commissioner Dan Toepper about the four-year slate of water increases during the April 20 meeting.

The PUD’s recently completed water system plan identified $16.4 million in capital improvement projects needed to keep systems running safely and reliably through 2030, O’Donnell said in the press release.

The PUD’s recent cost-of-service study called for additional rate increases beyond 2024 to continue to cover both the water division’s operating expenses and capital improvements, Toepper said.

“We understand that this is going to be painful, but it will be even more painful the longer we wait,” he said.

Under the proposal, electric rates would increase by 3 percent this year, followed by a 7 percent increase in 2022, and 3.5 percent increases in both 2023 and 2024, as well as adding an additional monthly $2.50 base fee, increasing annually, O’Donnell has said previously.

If approved, residential electric customers also would have the $2.50 increased base fee each month for the remainder of 2021, with no increase in consumption charges below 1,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

Above 1,600 kWh, a new rate of $0.1143 per kWh would be assessed, and consumption rates would increase starting in 2022 for all levels, O’Donnell said.

For the PUD customer using an average of 1,000 kWh per month, the electrical increase would raise average monthly prices from $114.22 to $116.72 for 2021 for the base charge.

The cost would further rise to $125.24 monthly in 2022, $129.97 in 2023 and $134.85 in 2024 with the increase in consumption rates and the additional base fees, according to the PUD’s website.

More information on the proposed rate hikes can be found at www.jeffpud.org/rate-hearing-april-6th-increases-proposed.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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