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Tacoma Public Utility Board to vote on budget, rates tonight

After reviewing plans and staff presentations for more than eight months, the Public Utility Board will vote on a budget at its 6:30 p.m. meeting tonight that will set upcoming rates for Tacoma Power, Tacoma Water and Tacoma Rail. If approved by the board, the budget will go to the Tacoma Council for approval in November.

Public outreach

At the Public Utility Board’s direction, utility staff prepared an involved public outreach and communication plan and coordinated with the City of Tacoma’s General Government. Staff participated in more than 45 meetings with numerous customer groups, working to ensure franchise cities, neighborhood councils and other community groups were informed about the budgets being presented and to give the community an opportunity to provide feedback. A complete list of meetings and presentations can be found at MyTPU.org/Rates.

“This year’s budget process demonstrates a new level of public engagement for Tacoma Public Utilities,” said Jackie Flowers, who started as TPU’s director on Aug. 1. “In partnership with our board and colleagues within the city of Tacoma, we plan to bring more transparency to the city’s budgeting process, so our customers can be informed well in advance of any financial impacts, especially those in our community living on limited incomes.”

Tacoma Power

Tacoma Power’s rates for residential customers will increase by 0.9 percent each year – which equates to an average of 84 cents per month in 2019 and 85 cents per month in 2020. Residential customers currently pay an average of $84 per month for electric services.

Some of the major activities supported by the revenue collected through electric rates include:

  • Operating seven hydroelectric dams and four fish hatcheries
  • Purchasing electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration
  • Maintaining and upgrading nearly 2,400 miles of power lines
  • Keeping the electric system secure from cyber and physical threats
  • Investing in technology to comply with federal regulations, improve reliability and enhance customer service
  • Improving programs to keep employees and customers safe

“Tacoma Power is making important investments to continue providing clean and reliable electric service to our customers,” said Tacoma Power Superintendent Chris Robinson. “Tacoma Power is taking the long-term view to keep rates as low and stable as possible.”  

Tacoma Water

Tacoma Water rates for residential customers will increase by 2.9 percent each year – which equates to an average of $1.02 per month in 2019 and $1.08 per month in 2020. Residential customers currently pay an average of $38.49 per month for water services.

Some of the major activities supported by the revenue collected through water rates include:

  • Operating a state-of-the-art filtration facility at the Green River
  • Maintaining 24 wells to supplement water needs, mainly during the summer
  • Protecting thousands of acres of land in the Green River Watershed
  • Maintaining and upgrading 1,376 miles of water mains

“Providing adequate clean drinking water is fundamental to the health of our communities,” said Tacoma Water Superintendent Scott Dewhirst. “Tacoma Water takes a methodical approach to invest in projects that ensure we provide our customers with that vital utility service.” 

Tacoma Rail

In 2019, Tacoma Rail’s rates will increase by an average of 2 percent for each class of customers it serves.

Some of the major activities supported by the revenue collected through rail rates include:

  • Handling more than 100,000 freight shipments each year
  • Maintaining 140 miles of track
  • Operating 16 locomotives, all of which have been built or retrofitted for reduced emissions
  • Investing in equipment and training for oil spill containment and positive train control

“Activity in the Port of Tacoma has the biggest impact on our budget,” said Tacoma Rail Superintendent Dale King. “Although Tacoma Rail anticipates fairly stable freight traffic over the next two years, we budgeted to be flexible for new demands should they arise.”

The Public Utility Board meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Tacoma Public Utilities Auditorium, 3628 S. 35th St., Tacoma.

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