The day after my March 10th, 2009, E-newsletter was dispersed, Mayor Greg Nickels announced changes to the City’s utility rate assistance programs. More citizens will become eligible to receive assistance with their electric and water bills. The changes in the program are expected to increase participation by approximately 1,000 residents. I have been very supportive of this effort, as demonstrated by my successful advocacy of $100,000 to promote an electric bill assistance program.
Specifically, under the Low-Income Rate Assistance program, families of four with a yearly income of $53,124 or less are eligible for a 50 percent reduction on their utility bills for up to 18 months.
To find out more about this and other programs, click the following link: http://www.peoplepoint.info/
News release issued yesterday (4/09/09):
“No Utility Rate Increases in 2009!
SEATTLE – City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell have notified the Mayor that they will not consider electricity, sewer, or drainage rate increases for 2009. Conlin and Harrell do not want to add financial strain to residents and local businesses struggling to make ends meet during a recessionary economy that has lost jobs, investments, and home values.
Seattle Public Utilities and City Light, facing revenue shortfalls, have been planning to request rate increases in 2009. However, rather than place additional burden on Seattle ratepayers to cover these costs, Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Richard Conlin are challenging both Utilities to come up with alternative solutions to manage budgets with existing rates.
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History: Until January 1, 2005, the City funded fire hydrant services through water rates. On March 1, 2005 the Lane v. City of Seattle case was filed. The suit claims the City’s method of charging Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) customers for fire hydrants through water bills was an improper means to an end. The practice of funding fire hydrant services has since been corrected. SPU now charges the General Subfund (GF) and other governmental customers, which include King County and the City of Shoreline for hydrant services.
Late in 2008, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the City was not justified in charging the fire hydrant costs to the ratepayers during March 2002 to December 2004. SPU was required to refund to water ratepayers a total amount of $20,346,660, plus interest at 12% until paid, less any amounts paid for attorneys’ fees and expenses. A court order also required the City’s GF to pay SPU $13,553,286 plus interest at the rate of 3.18% by April 30, 2009.
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