From A City of Mill Creek news release.
For 20 years, Mill Creek property owners have paid the same Surface Water Utility fee of $78 per year. With significant surface water infrastructure repairs and replacements looming, the Mill Creek City Council voted on November 27, 2018, to almost double the fee to $150 per year in 2019.
Mill Creek property owners pay the city's Surface Water Utility fee each year along with their property taxes.
The Surface Water Utility is self-supporting, meaning that all goods and services provided to the public are covered by the user fees billed to all properties located within city limits based upon equivalent residential units.
“This fee increase allows the Surface Water Utility to stay more solvent and helps us not impose a utility tax on our residents,” said Councilmember Mark Bond.
He went on to say, “We are one of the few jurisdictions in the state that don’t impose such a tax.”
The fee will also increase to $175 in 2020 and $200 in 2021, followed by annual fee increases of 3 percent through 2026.
The city also must issue debt of $2.8 million over the next five years to handle high-priority infrastructure needs.
The City of Mill Creek owns and is responsible for maintaining approximately 50 miles (264,000 linear feet) of surface water pipes, many of which use materials no longer recommended, like corrugated metal pipe. This aging infrastructure needs to be inspected, evaluated and scheduled for replacement as needed.
In October, the Mill Creek City Council adopted the 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Plan, which includes a Surface Water Aging Infrastructure Program estimated at $4,687,500 over the next six years.
Initial projects identified include replacement or repair of the city’s 18-inch or larger pipes that are ruptured and for which potential failure could have a negative effect on life, property or a combination of both.
An analysis of the upcoming utility needs conducted by FCS Group in fall 2018 identified that without a fee increase, the city’s utility would run out of cash operating funds by 2021.
“Without raising the fees, the Surface Water Utility could not cover basic operations costs, let alone address capital projects,” said Gina Hortillosa, director of Public Works and Development Services.
She went on to say, “Further, to date we have only scoped the larger surface water pipes. We still don’t know the status of the smaller pipes, which encompass about 86 percent of our surface water infrastructure.”
She noted that survey and design work is underway in preparation for surface water infrastructure construction work in 2019.
In the Puget Sound area, the highest annual surface water utility rate is $259.32, with the average lying between $156 and $192 annually.