Utility Rate Study
Rate Study Process
Over the last year, the City of Washougal has been conducting a rate study to determine rates for the water, sewer and stormwater utilities for the next five years (2024-2028). The city launched the study with an open house in November 2022 and since then has been working with a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which has acted as a sounding board throughout the study. The CAC, which is made up of seven Washougal residential and commercial ratepayers, met six times over a nine-month period to receive detailed information on utility operations, revenue requirements, cost of service, and rate design.
Analysis and Evaluation
The CAC evaluated several options for rate scenarios to meet revenue requirements for the three utilities between 2024 and 2028. For all utilities the scenarios included an option with no increase in rates and another with a 10% decrease in rates over the 2024-2028 period. A third option, which would fully fund the city’s reserve budget for facility upgrades and replacement was also considered. This option resulted in annual increases ranging from 10% to 38% over the 2024-2028 period.
Based on the financial information provided to them, the CAC felt that maintaining existing rates or decreasing rates would be financially irresponsible and would only result in “passing the buck” on to future ratepayers. They also felt that 10-38% rate increases were too big for the community to bear and requested that the city present an option that kept rate increase to 2.9% annually. After careful analysis to determine if a 2.9% increase would allow the city to maintain and operate the utilities, the CAC supported the annual 2.9% increase over the next 5 years. The CAC presented its recommendation to City Council in November and the council will consider and potentially adopt the proposed rate increase in January 2024. If adopted the new rates will go into effect in February 2024
What Does This Mean To Ratepayers
Utility bills vary widely based on how much water customers use, but the average customer pays about $286 bi-monthly for water, sewer, and stormwater. The proposed rate increase will increase the average bi-monthly bill to about $294. This equates to about an $8.08 bi-monthly increase for the average customer ($4.04 monthly). Utility bills will continue to vary depending on how much water customers use and whether you are a single-family, multi-family, or commercial customer.
The proposed rate increases are below the cost of inflation and maintain Washougal’s current position for rates among a number of Washington cities.
Want More Information?
There are a number of ways to learn more about the study.
- Please see our Rate Study Frequently Asked Questions below.
- Dig into the details of the study
- Check out our brief video about the rate study.
- Attend our rate study open house. Drop in to learn about the study and talk with city staff, consultants, and CAC members.
- When: Wednesday, November 29, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Washougal Community Center, 1681 C Street, Washougal
- Attend one of two community drop-in sessions.
- TBA soon
WHAT IS A RATE STUDY?
Rate studies help create funding strategies for critical and mandated capital projects and allow cities to address questions about customer rate equity. A rate study is a financial evaluation process by which the City establishes the amount required to fully fund the water, wastewater, and stormwater utility programs while also proportionally distributing those costs among various users in accordance with their impact on the total utility system.
1. EVALUATE SENSITIVE PRIORITIES
The City works to determine the goals and objectives of the study, mindful of fully funding the utility program and keeping rates affordable all while delivering safe, clean, and reliable utility services.
2. FISCAL POLICY REVIEW
The City evaluates its existing financial policies as a means to establish a foundation for the rate study.
3. REVENUE NEEDS ASSESSMENT
The City quantifies the cost of necessary system improvements, program operations, and routine maintenance. In other words, determining the size of the pie.
4. COST OF SERVICE ANALYSIS
The City distributes system users to various “customer classes” based on their usage and impacts. System costs are then allocated proportionate to their class, e.g., single family residential, mixed-use, commercial, etc. In other words, determining how to slice the pie.
5. RATE STRUCTURE DESIGN
Based on fiscal policies and revenue needs, the City establishes a means to carry-out other program priorities inclusive of maintaining rate affordability (keeping rates as affordable as possible), reserve funding, water conservation, and meeting debt obligations.
6. PUBLIC EDUCATION AND ENGAGEMENT
The City Council and Staff actively and transparently communicate the status of the rate study, including important decisions, to the public and impacted system stakeholders.
- I heard the city is conducting a rate study. What is being studied?
- What is the city doing to inform and involve the public in the study?
- How much of a rate increase should I expect?
- What would happen if the city kept rates the same as they are now or lowered them? Why does the city need to raise rates?
- The bill we receive for the three utilities can be confusing. What can be done to improve it?
- What is a typical bill for Washougal ratepayers?
- My bi-monthly bill seems high to me which makes me wonder about other cities. Why are rates in similar cities different and is the rumor true that our rates are some of the highest in the state?
- I’m frustrated by the high rates. What is the city doing to keep our rates reasonable?
- Has the city considered going to a monthly billing cycle?