Politics & Government

Proposed rate hikes for Tacoma Power could get a makeover this week

The Tacoma City Council didn’t vote Tuesday night on increasing power rates for the next two years, as was planned. Instead, they voted to remove the controversial rate hike proposal from the agenda.

At their meeting two weeks ago, several members of the council said they didn’t like the way the rate increases from Tacoma Power — which average 5.9 percent across all rate classes in 2017 and another 5.9 percent in 2018 — were structured for residential customers. Instead of an increase in the per-kilowatt-hour usage charge, the rate hikes for the residential class were structured as a $5.75 increase in the fixed monthly customer charge, which would have resulted in more than doubling that monthly charge by 2018.

Council members said they thought that would disincentivize conservation and potentially hurt low-income, low users of electricity, like those who live in small apartments.

The Tacoma Public Utilities board heard their concerns at a joint study session two weeks ago. That board is scheduled to vote on a revised structure for the rate hikes at its Wednesday meeting: For residential customers, the new proposal will divide the burden of the planned-for rate increase evenly between a hike in the per-kilowatt-hour charge and a hike to the fixed monthly customer charge.

“We have to increase the rates, let’s do it in a way that is equitable,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said Tuesday.

As planned on Tuesday, the council approved a less controversial plan to increase Tacoma Water rates by an average 4 percent across all rate classes in each of 2017 and 2018. Councilman Robert Thoms was the sole no vote.

The Tacoma Public Utilities board will take up the new hybrid proposal on power rate increases for residential customers at its meeting Wednesday. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. at 3628 S. 35th St.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud