After members of Tacoma’s City Council expressed concern with power rate hikes proposed for the next two years, Tacoma Public Utilities board member Monique Trudnowski said if the council votes down the rate increases later this month she’ll consider it “an opportunity for a reset” on the conversation about how to fund Click Cable TV’s expansion into internet and phone.
Several council members said Tuesday they weren’t comfortable with the way the residential rate increases for Tacoma Power are being structured: Instead of an increase to the kilowatt-per-hour rate, utility staff is proposing a $5.75 monthly increase in the fixed customer charge in 2017 and again in 2018. That fixed monthly charge is currently $10.50.
“While I appreciate being concerned about constituents, that concern should have been expressed when we decided to commit millions of dollars to a losing business,” said Trudnowski, who voted against the funding plan the utility board approved to pay for Click’s expansion into selling retail internet and phone service directly to customers by using power rate revenues to pick up the slack.
City Council members who are against the power rate hikes, which will increase by a systemwide average of 5.9 percent in 2017 and 2018, said structuring rate hikes this way would hurt low-income ratepayers who are low users of energy and would de-incentivize conservation efforts.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Part of Trudnowski’s reasoning for voting against the Click funding plan was that it balances Click’s budget on the backs of ratepayers, including those who are low income and can’t access the Click network.
Many members of the City Council have supported Click’s new funding plan, saying they want to create a public and affordable broadband network.
“If we have this apprehension or if there is reticence on part of the City Council to raise rates and pass this on to residential ratepayers, I did not see that same reticence in embarking on a multi-million-dollar losing line of business that will be funded through the power budget,” Trudnowski said.