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Letter to the Editor: Shoreline Water District Rate Hikes Unethical, Unjustified

Shoreline School Board directors write that an 85 percent increase in water rates last year by the Shoreline Water District, with another hike on the horizon, hurts local schools disproportionately.

Letter to the Editor:

In January of 2012, the Shoreline Water District significantly increased the rates charged for water to our schools/facilities in their service area, specifically Shorecrest, Kellogg, Ridgecrest, Briarcrest, Brookside, Aldercrest, North City, Cedarbrook, Transportation and the Warehouse/Central Kitchen. 

Despite numerous attempts to get justification for these unprecedented increases, no reasonable explanation was provided.  When asked about an appeal process, the Water District said there was not one.  As a result, the School District included a letter of protest with each water bill paid in 2012.

The attached spreadsheet for the calendar year of 2012 shows the exorbitant charges imposed by the Shoreline Water District. As you can see, the rates being charged are not comparable to the other two water districts that serve the school district. 

Last year’s charges reflect an increase of 85 percent over the previous year, resulting in rates now being more than twice that of the other water districts.  Specifically, the total cost per ccf (100 cubic feet or 748 gallons) from Seattle Public Utilities and Lake Forest Park Water District was $8.92 and $8.82, respectively.  For Shoreline Water the total cost was $19.68 per ccf.  And last week, we were notified that the rates would be increasing yet again in 2013.

Obviously, the school district has no choice where it buys its water for schools and facilities, and unlike commercial businesses, it has no ability to pass increased costs on to its customers.  Unfortunately, this situation has already begun to undermine our ability to care for school grounds, buildings and facilities, and more importantly, it will erode our ability to provide programs and services to the children in our schools. 

We do not believe these rates are ethical or justified, and they are not sustainable for our already under-funded schools.

 

Sincerely,

Shoreline School Board

Debi Ehrlichman, President

Mike Jacobs, Vice President

Dick Nicholson, Director

Dick Potter, Director

David Wilson, Director

Sue Walker, Superintendent


Editor's note: The board shared an analysis of the District's water rates, attached here as a pdf.

Don February 13, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Go Democrats! You're getting just what you voted for! Bravo!
Tom Jamieson February 14, 2013 at 01:43 AM
The School District claims no *reasonable* explanation has been provided. Yet their letter to the editor provides no explanation at all. Well, Shoreline Water District does provide an explanation, and a reasonable one at that, and it is just 2 clicks from their website's home page: http://shorelinewater.org/. "...if a larger building catches fire, it requires far more water volume than a single family home to extinguish the fire. This added water volume requires Shoreline Water District to build and maintain bigger pipes and pumps to ensure adequate firefighting capacity for larger buildings. In summary, a larger building has a greater impact on the cost of water facilities than does a single-family home, regardless of meter size. This recognition is what led us to define our new rate structure." The School District does the Water District and the community a disservice by refusing in its public letter to respond to the burden of rejoinder. In other words, they ought to be specific about which part of the Water District's explanation they object to, instead of whining about their own financial status, as if that is the Water District's problem.
Janne Kaje February 14, 2013 at 03:39 AM
Mr. Jamison is correct that fire protection is the reason that larger buildings have higher costs generally. The standards are set by the State to ensure that large buildings have enough water supply to fight a fire. Everyone, including the school district, gets this. They have been paying for higher volume service for as long as they have been around. The state standards apply to ALL water districts. So, how is it that the school district's two other providers (Seattle PU and LFP Water District) have rates that are less than half of Shoreline Water District's new rates? As I explained above, and you can find it yourself in the rate study, the formula used by Shoreline WD is simply bizarre and arbitrary, and considers every 840 square feet of space to be equal to a home in terms of water infrastructure. The physical space requirements of a school are fundamentally different than those of a business, but the fire protection infrastructure is the same - bigger pipe coming in and access to at least 3,500 gallons/minute in case of fire. Mr. Jamison - if one of the three gas stations you use just doubled the price per gallon, even though the product is exactly the same, would you still go there? Unfortunately, the school district has no choice but to pay up.
Diane Pottinger February 16, 2013 at 02:17 AM
The School District numbers are incorrect and they did not discuss their concerns with us prior to going to the media. We are trying to understand their questions so we can accurately respond.
Jeanne Gustafson February 16, 2013 at 06:43 AM
Thanks for your comments so far. While we continue to research this issue, I want to share this info from the Shoreline Water District: The district held a public meeting Tuesday, where about a dozen ratepayers and residents met to discuss possible changes: 1) Upgrading the North City reservoir and pump station Our 3.7 million gallon storage tank is getting a new Pump Station to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs, some internal and external improvements, and new paint. The new pump station utilizes nearly all of the volume in the reservoir while maximizing water pressure energy efficient pumps. The project includes improvements to the system pressures at the intersection of 15th Ave NE and 24th Ave NE. The project is slated to go out for bid in May, and completed in 2014. Funding is from 2011 bonds obtained at 3% interest along with a low 1.24% interest loan. 2) Renaming the Water District Shoreline Water District has never been affiliated with the city, but often gets their calls. To eliminate confusion, we’d like to request input and ideas for a new water district name. (We sent ballots in the January / February bills.) Commissioners will review submissions later and decide on a name change. 3) A more amenable approach to inflationary-based rate increases. Commissioners have voted to begin implementing smaller, inflationary level rate increases each year, rather than large intermittent increases which are more difficult for ratepayers.

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