Rate hike is huge, but ‘water’ you gonna do?

Port Orchard residents are about to experience the same sticker shock when they open their water bills as when they opened their property tax assessments last spring — and for much the same reason.

According to Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery, property taxes appeared to skyrocket in one year because they hadn’t increased gradually over a period of six years.

So rather than complain about the higher rates this year, Avery suggested property owners should be grateful their taxes were unrealistically low the previous five.

Similarly, city utility customers have been hit with three rate increases since 2009 after not seeing their bills increase in years.

The previous hikes were for sewer and stormwater, and now the city is faced with a $200,000 shortfall for water service in 2011 alone.

Add to that deteriorating infrastructure badly in need of replacement and Port Orchard residents could see their base rate for water service jump from $18.50 to around $42 every two months.

That represents a huge bump, especially for households on a fixed income — which is why the city has planned a public hearing for July 26 at which the council will hear testimony on why and how to structure the rate increase.

One key difference between the property tax and water rate increases, though, is that property taxes are used to fund county programs the taxpayer may or may not consider irreplaceable, while water payments cover the cost of what it takes to deliver water to your tap and nothing else.

Which doesn’t make the increase any more affordable, but it does make it more defensible.

In short, until someone comes up with another substance we  can shower in, there doesn’t seem much alternative in this case to paying the piper.

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