Seattle City Light customers getting rate hike

Seattle City Light customers getting rate hike

SEATTLE — Seattle City Light customers will pay more for power starting next year, and their bills will continue to go up for the next six years.

But before approving the rate hike, the city council blasted the utility for cost overruns. KIRO 7 was first to report the $5 million mistake they made on the smart meter program.

During a 30-minute debate, council members made it clear they plan to keep close tabs on Seattle City Light to avoid those kinds of spending mistakes.

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But only one city council member voted against the rate hike.

"I mean we are all watching closely and very concerned about cost overruns," said Council President Bruce Harrell.

The word seemed to be on the lips of nearly every Seattle City Councilmember who spoke.

"We want to make sure as Councilmember Herbold and President Harrell said that we look at overruns," added Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.

Seattle City Light's smart meter conversion is a case in point. KIRO 7 uncovered that converting to smart meters is costing $17 million more than the utility projected. Five million dollars of that is because someone forgot to calculate the sales tax. To prevent that, the city council is forming a special review committee.

"We also want to have a clear system in place to manage capital costs, large capital projects," said Mosqueda, "and make sure we're catching issues like the overruns that were mentioned before they erupt into overruns and before they are actually noted in the press."

Still, City Light says it needs a rate hike to keep up with maintaining its infrastructure, part of a six-year strategic plan. The first year, the average household will pay $3.77 cents more per month. By year six, that monthly bill will have risen to $85.59.

When the votes were tallied, only Councilmember Kshama Sawant was a no.

"I have made it clear year after year," said Sawant, "that I do not support a rate structure that puts the cost, rate increases and the cost disproportionately on the shoulders of working families and also some of the most struggling businesses."

One reason City Light says it needs this rate hike? Its customers are doing so well conserving electricity, the utility isn't bringing in the revenue it thought it would, revenue it needs to pay its bills.

The rate hike goes into effect in 2019.