Rise in Langley’s water rates tied to bond vote

A steep water rate hike is likely in Langley’s future.

Consultants from an engineering firm and utility planning agency presented the draft update to the city’s water comprehensive plan update to city council Monday night.

The increase will be significantly less, however, if the infrastructure measure passes in November, said Katy Isaksen of Katy Isaksen & Associates. Water systems are required by law to be financially self sufficient.

To keep up with infrastructure needs, Isaksen recommended an approximate $20 increase to the monthly water base rate in 2020 and an additional 4 percent to the rate each year after that. If the bond passes, she said, the increase in 2020 would be about $5 to bring the monthly residential base rate to approximately $52.29. Each year after there would be a 3 percent increase to adjust for inflation.

The new ten-year plan still needs a public hearing and approval by city council, Island County and the state before it’s adopted.

The large step up in the beginning is meant to prevent large or unexpected increases from happening in the years beyond 2020 while accounting for the estimated cost increases in construction, Isaksen told council members.

When creating the recommendations, Isaksen used a conservative population growth projection that’s lower than the county or state’s predictions for Langley. Mayor Tim Callison said the city’s growth never matches what it’s predicted to by the other models.

If the Village by the Sea were to grow more quickly than she anticipated, the rates would likely go down because more people would share the burden of the cost to run the system.

Councilwoman Dominique Emerson said she’d potentially be in favor of adopting a predictable rate increase that’s consistent with Isaksen’s recommended 3 percent each year. She said the system could keep up financially in a way that’s predictable for residents, and the council wouldn’t have to make “agonizing” decisions about the rates each year.

Langley’s rates are higher than most of the other jurisdictions on the island, according to the plan. An average water user in Oak Harbor pays approximately $43.40 per month compared to an average $48.58 in Langley. Coupeville customers during the town’s peak-season pricing pay approximately $34 a month.

Holmes Harbor residents pay more than Langley at $52.

Over the next 20 years, the plan estimates $21 million will need to be spent on capital improvements, although $5 million are expected to be developer-funded improvements.