New Bill Gives You a Say in Who Provides Your Utility Service

Among strong team support, the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors included Senator Maralyn Chase and Representative Dean Takko (pictured in image above with Governor Jay Inslee).

On May 6, 2015, Governor Jay Inslee signed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5048 into law.  When this law goes into effect in July, it will enables voters of a Special Purpose District to file a qualifying petition when a City attempts to take over, or assume, water-sewer services from their District.

More details on the bill’s background and what it means for you, a member of a special purpose district:  click HERE.

Your water and sewer services are provided by Northshore Utility District (NUD), a “special purpose district.”  Districts like NUD are formed by a vote of the residents, before cities are able or ready to provide the various public services.  But whenever a city is ready, it can take over, or assume, the portion of the district that lies within the city limits.  The city then gets to keep the district’s assets within its city limits without having to pay for them.  Affected city residents have had no say in the matter—until now.

A bill was proposed and passed recently that provides a way for the affected citizens to stop, if they so choose, the assumption of their water-sewer district by a city.  Most of your local elected representatives in both the House and Senate feel that you should have a say and voted for it.  Senate bill 5048 was signed into state law on May 6, 2015, by Governor Inslee.

The new law allows any citizen to file an opposition petition with the County Auditor, within ten days of when a city passes an ordinance to assume a water-sewer district.  The County Auditor will give the petitioner the petition number and ballot title within ten days of the filing.  The petitioner then has forty-five days to collect signatures from at least ten percent of the number of voters residing in the area of the water-sewer district targeted for assumption, who voted in the most recent general election.  (If 4,000 people in the affected area voted in the most recent election, 400 signatures would meet the requirement.)  Once enough valid signatures are gathered, the County Auditor will put the referendum measure up for vote in a general or special election within 120 days.

There are many reasons why some folks prefer to receive water-sewer services from a special purpose district over a city-operated utility.  Keeping lower service rates and avoiding the city’s added utility tax are two main ones.  Water and sewer facilities are constructed to follow the natural topography, not political boundaries.  Water storage is always built at high elevations and sewer collection at the low point of the terrain to take advantage of gravity.  For this reason, these facilities can be located all in one of the cities that we serve and none at all in the others that we also serve.  Carving up a multi-jurisdictional water and sewer utility to follow political boundaries creates a whole new set of problems.

NUD is, and has always been, 100% supported by service rates.  Your user rates and assessments pay for the services and all of NUD’s assets like reservoirs, equipment, pipelines, and water right for future supply.  We are not supported by property taxes and do not have to subsidize other municipal services with your rates.  Your rates go towards your services and nothing else.  This allows the District to run very efficiently, keeping lower rates than what most cities can offer.