Letter to the Editor: Seattle Times Article Undermines Prop 1 Budget Arguments

The City of Shoreline’s case for purchasing Seattle Public Utilities is based on poor logic and flimsy assumptions.

Editor's note: The place of the Ronald Wastewater heaering has been corrcted below.

To the editor:

The City of Shoreline’s case for purchasing Seattle Public Utilities is based on poor logic and flimsy assumptions. The city’s ability to provide service without raising rates depends upon its prediction that water revenue will increase a whopping 56.4% from 2011 to 2020.

The city is relying on two questionable assumptions: population will go up 10 percent and all those new residents will use more water.

Regionally, water consumption has dropped even as population has increased, thanks to better appliances, tougher plumbing codes, and greater conservation. There is no reason to believe those trends will go into reverse.

Even if the city’s population soars 50 percent, that alone would not result in enough consumption to support the city’s revenue projections. 

Between 1975 and 2004, Seattle Public Utilities measured a 30 percent drop in consumption with a 15 percent increase in population. This trend has continued as reported in the October 13 Seattle Times, as a result of conservation, codes, and costs.

Moreover, Shoreline projects population increases from high-density development. Meaning, the new people will live in housing lacking large, water-thirsty yards typical of single-family housing.

If the City of Shoreline can’t increase revenue by selling more water, it will have to balance the budget by raising rates.  No matter what today’s City Council promises, it cannot bind a cash-strapped future council that will look to rate increases and higher utility taxes to close the financial gap.

There are better options than the city overextending itself by going into the water business. Citizens interested in finding out other choices for locally controlled service at reasonable rates should attend the Ronald Wastewater District public hearing, Monday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., at the Shoreline Conference Center in the Rainier Room.

Wendy DiPeso


Walter Johnson October 17, 2012 at 07:44 AM
Will water rates increase naturally by less due to stricter water quality standards, higheer labor costs, aging infrastructure, water rights pricing, etc.?
Wendy DiPeso October 18, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Water rates will increase. The "hard" costs,..the cost of the infrastructure does not go down just because people use less water. Water mains have to be replaced as they wear out. So over time the utility collects less revenue as consumption goes down, but their cost of operation remains the same or increases as construction costs and labor costs increase. So rates go up. When rates go up people use less water. Nation wide a lot of cities are wishing they had never gotten into the utility business. Shoreline City Hall is ignoring this data to their own peril and that of ratepayers. Public Utilities are doing much better financially. Shoreline water district charges more for the "hard" costs and less for the actual use of water. They have been able to absorb rate increases passed on to them by Seattle without raising rates as much as SPU. They have lower maintenance costs because they have aggressively invested in the system for 80 years. They have a healthy reserve. For many reasons bringing the West side of Shoreline under control of a Public Utility makes a lot more sense.
Tom Jamieson October 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
The Ronald meeting on Monday, October 22 is a town meeting, not a public hearing: http://ronaldwastewater.org/downloads/TOWN%20HALL%20MEETING.pdf This town meeting should be a good opportunity to highlight the continuing confusion around Proposition 1. After the City's so-called decade long pursuit of this acquisition, after all the so-called due diligence by the hand-picked and hamstrung citizens steering committee, and after all the shameless propaganzing by the City with their one-sided push polls, multiple image-building pro-administration 2-part City official interviews in the Patch, and 11th hour 4-page color 'informational' flyer, the fact that the public is still confused over this proposition is proof-positive the City has done a miserable job of legitimate outreach,


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