Tacoma Public Utilities Board members voted Wednesday to approve a preliminary budget and rates proposal aimed at maintaining safe, reliable service to customers and enhancing residential assistance programs for income-constrained customers while balancing increased costs from inflation.
Tacoma Public Utilities is a not-for-profit, customer-owned utility that only charges for costs to provide services. Inflationary pressures have driven up costs for the Utility— the cost to construct and maintain utility infrastructure, such as power transformers and water reservoirs, has risen with supply chain constraints; wages have increased to keep pace with the labor market, and other costs such as fuel and insurance have been impacted by inflationary pressures.
In 2023 and 2024, pending final approval, customers will experience a system average rate increase of 3.5 percent for power and 4.0 percent for water, below the 9 percent inflation rate in the Puget Sound region. These increases are designed to be gradual, preventing future large increases while still providing safe and reliable services.
As a part of the budget and rates proposal, Tacoma Public Utilities will provide enhanced residential assistance programs for customers who need it most. These enhancements will provide an automatic bill credit based on qualifying income thresholds. As a result, the total available household aid for the five City utility services will increase from $672 per year to $967 in 2023 and $1,035 in 2024, offsetting rate increases for those who qualify.
The approved rates and budget package will now go to Tacoma City Council for final approval by the end of November. The increases in water bills would take effect in January of 2023 during off-peak water consumption, while power bills would increase in April of 2023, after winter’s peak power needs.