A proposed 8.8 percent rate increase by Seattle City Light, which would begin in January, Ã¢â‚¬Å“will affect most of our residents,Ã¢â‚¬Â Burien City Manager Mike Martin said last week.
City Light provides electrical service to almost all of Burien and all of the North Highline area. The Seattle City Council will vote on whether to accept or amend the rate increase request later this month.
Included in City LightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rate analysis supporting the proposed increase are additional increases of 5.4 percent in 2011 and 6.6 percent in 2012.
Because City Light is a publicly owned utility, it is not regulated by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. Oversight comes instead from the Seattle City Council.
Martin said Burien has asked City Light for clarification about the need for a rate hike at this time, Ã¢â‚¬Å“since it will affect so many of our residents,Ã¢â‚¬Â but has not yet received a reply.
Outgoing Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels called for the increase when he submitted in September his proposed 2010 budget.
In a report to the Burien City Council, Martin noted that reasons given for a higher power rate when Nickels announced his budget proposal were the poor economy, a sharp decline in sales of surplus power and a larger-than-proposed rate decrease in 2007.
Surplus power sales have been driven down by low natural-gas prices, according to Seattle budget director Dwight Dively. While SeattleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2009 budget anticipated surplus power sales of $140 million, only about half that amount has been sold Ã¢â‚¬â€œ leaving City Light with a $70 million shortfall.
Martin added that City Light also says the increase is needed to maintain its net operating income reserve, although Ã¢â‚¬Å“there is no legal reserve requirementÃ¢â‚¬Â for that reserve as structured by the utility.
Citing City LightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reference to cash flow, Martin replied, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The economy is also hurting our residentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ cash flow.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In a statement to The B-Town Blog, he said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“At this time, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still not entirely clear whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going on.Ã¢â‚¬Â Burien staff will seek more information from City Light within the next couple of weeks.