Utility Rate Increase

Rate Increases for Sewer, Water & Storm Drainage Utilities
You may have noticed the rate increases for the City of Fife’s Sewer, Water, and Storm Drainage utilities for both residential and non-residential customers. A substantial increase has been made for the Sewer utility rates and inflation indexing formulas for the water and storm drainage utilities. Historically, the City of Fife has had some of the lowest rates in the region. The new increases only put us near the middle of the rates that the surrounding jurisdictions charge.

Why was a rate increase needed?
The City of Fife buys nearly all its drinking water from Tacoma Public Utilities and pays Tacoma Environmental Services for the treatment of nearly all its wastewater. That means that the City of Tacoma has substantial control over the cost of our water and sewer services. Fife’s sewer rates hadn’t changed since 2010, and since Tacoma has substantially increased its rates, we’ve fallen behind in recouping the cost of wastewater treatment. Tacoma also announced plans to increase water rates in 2016, which means Fife also needed to raise rates. One other factor that affects the sewer rates is the need to update the Sewer Comprehensive Plan. The Storm Drainage utility also needs a significant amount of work to improve the drainage in Fife, which meant a rate adjustment.

What does the rate increase look like?
Just like in previous rate increases, Fife City Council has adopted a “utility rate ordinance” that establishes a ladder of rate increases that go into effect over a multi-year period. Here is what the City has adopted for each utility:

Sanitary Sewer
City of Fife sanitary sewer rate charges were increased by 45%, or about $37.82 per bi-monthly (two month) billing cycle for a typical single family residence. Percentage wise, this is the largest increase of the three utilities implemented in 2015.

This is the first increase in sewer utility charges since 2010. The increase addresses sewer costs charged to the City of Fife by the City of Tacoma, which treats the City of Fife’s sewage at its Portland Avenue Treatment Plant. These charges from the City of Tacoma have been increasing annually since 2010 and an increase is now necessary to “catch up” to Tacoma’s charges to Fife.

To keep pace with Tacoma’s future utility charge increase to Fife, the City Council has indexed annual sewer rate increases starting January 1, 2016 and on the first day of January in each successive year thereafter. All rates shall be increased from the previous year based upon Tacoma’s treatment cost increase and inflation.

City of Fife water rates were increased by 2%, or about $1.02 per bi-monthly (two month) billing cycle for a typical single family residence. The City of Fife purchases its water from the City of Tacoma. The 2% increase addresses costs of purchasing water from the City of Tacoma and also costs associated with providing on-going system improvements.

Storm Water (Drainage)
City of Fife storm drainage rate were increased by approximately $2.00 per bi-monthly (two month) period for a typical single family residence. The exact amount of the increase depends upon the size of the property and the amount of impervious surface. 2015 marks the third year of a six year ladder of rate increases originally adopted in 2013. The increase in storm drainage rates is associated with more stringent federal standards for stormwater management (under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program), as well as a need to finance a series of drainage improvements throughout Fife to address localized flooding.

How are rate increases determined and adopted?
The City of Fife continually evaluates operating costs and future capital expenditure needs of each utility. In many cases, the capital facilities needs are based on comments from our customers about improvements they would like to see, especially on matters related to stormwater to address isolated flooding.

Based upon the identified needs and other information such as utility rates of other jurisdictions, potential rate adjustments are discussed with the City Council, staff and the public. This process culminates in a public hearing on rates which is advertised in advance in the Fife Free Press, our social media channels (Facebook & Twitter), “Crossroads” E-newletter and on our website (cityoffife.org).

Following the public hearing, a utility rate ordinance is passed based upon the information provided and citizen comments. All revenue from utility bills goes directly to support the operation and maintenance of that utility. It does not go to fund other city services or programs.

Will there be utility rate increases in the future and, if so, what will they be?
As mentioned above, utility rates have been indexed to provide for future rate increases to address anticipated needs for the next few years. These increases are as follows:

  • Sewer and Water rates have been indexed to increase from the previous year based upon Tacoma’s treatment cost increase and inflation, starting January 1, 2016 and each successive year thereafter.
  • Storm drainage rates have been indexed to increase by 20% in 2016 and then by 3% annually through 2019. Then, they will increase from the previous year based upon inflation, starting January 1, 2020 and each successive year thereafter.

Who can I contact for more information?
Please contact Patty Luat, Finance Director, at (253) 922-2489 for more information.

The City of Fife is an equal opportunity‎ employer.