Bremerton utility rate study moves ahead

The City of Bremerton is moving forward with plans to conduct a utility rate study.

The city has budgeted $100,000 to conduct the study and is likely to select the FCS Group, a consulting firm, to evaluate existing water, sewer and stormwater rate structures and provide recommendations for future rates.

The city's last utilities rate study was performed in 2005. In recent months, the Bremerton City Council, in the face of a $2 million budget shortfall, voted to raises taxes on both the wastewater and stormwater utilities by 5 percent to funnel some of the money in the flush utility funds into accounts to pay for city streets, which the council said was a top priority and they had no other way to fund.

Bremerton City Councilmember Roy Runyon, at the time, said that stormwater and wastewater utility ratepayers would not necessarily see a rate increase as a result of the additional taxes levied on the "enterprise funds," which he described as "healthy."

Combined, the water utilities were expected to have $9 million in reserves at the end of 2012.

As of now, about $20 of every $100 paid in water utilities, by city residents and businesses, is funneled into the Bremerton Department of Public Works to pay for streets.

A final contract for the cost to perform the new rate study is expected to be finalized by May 2 and will not exceed the budgeted amount, according to the city.

"The objective of the Utilities Rate Study is to adequately fund utility operations, maintenance, capital costs, and bonded debt while minimizing rates to the greatest degree possible," a city staff report states. "The study will be based on a comprehensive review of Bremerton's funds and budgets, industry benchmarks, comprehensive utility plans, customer classes, current usage data, and future planned growth in each utility service area."

The FCS Group is expected to present three rate structure alternatives and phasing strategies. The consultant will also be expected to prepare a communications plan with recommendations "to ensure effective rate payer engagement." Stakeholders are defined as elected officials, a steering committee, rate payers, businesses, service area residents and city employees.

The FCS Group will, "Provide methods for communicating the value of utility services and utility costs which could include layout of the utility bill, and messaging for brochures, website, emails, news releases and public meetings."


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