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Tacoma water, power rates could go up, due to lower usage

TACOMA, Wash. — Conservation efforts could cost Tacoma residents more than they’re saving.

Two dozen city residents spoke up during Tuesday night’s Tacoma City Council meeting. They say they’re doing everything right, but saving energy could cost them money as Tacoma Public Utilities is proposing a rate hike for water and power.

“We try to conserve, we try to be good citizens and try to be involved,” said customer Lynnette Shureb.

Shureb says she and others want to fight back against a proposed rate increase for water and power.

“I turn down my water heater when I’m not using it. I turn it up 20 minutes before I use it. I turn my heat off when I’m not there. I put plastic on my windows,” said Shureb.

Those conservation efforts are the number one reason why Tacoma Public Utilities say rates must go up. People aren’t using water and power as much as TPU budgeted. So now, it’s projecting a $50 million shortfall. The hikes would affect all customers, no matter how much or how little they use.

“You’re better off asking everybody to pay a little bit more than one group of low-income folks to pay potentially pay a lot more and in particular on their winter bills,” said TPU Superintendent Chris Robinson.

Water rates would go up 4% and power would jump 6.7% for residential users. If the ordinances pass, the hike would happen in April and then again in April 2018. TPU says it must have more funds to pay for a high-tech water filtration system. That's why leaders in the company says rate hikes are a must, but faced pushback from some city residents and City Council members.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Shureb.

“I’ve not been a fan of flat rate increases since I’ve come on council. I’ve been pretty vocal about that for years,” said Tacoma City Council member Marty Campbell.

The City Council could vote on the rate hikes in two weeks. Between now and then, the city has asked TPU to answer questions raised Tuesday night and to even potentially come up with a new plan altogether.