Stronger Families. Stronger Communities. Stronger Washington

High Utility Costs: What Can We Do?
Author: peterabbarno
October 2, 2019

The cost of staying warm is a struggle for many in our community. And, it is that time of year again. There are a number of reasons for increased utility costs; including the cost of purchasing power from Bonneville Power Administration, cost of living increase, shortages in energy sources, capital improvements, etc. There are also TAXES!

Unfortunately, in 2016 the Centralia City Council by a 5-2 vote approved an increase in Centralia City Light rates by 4.8% each year for the next three-years, followed by smaller increases, in addition to an increase in the kilowatt usage rate. This increase was not limited to working families in our community. The increase impacted small business owners and increased the cost of living and doing business in our community.

Abbarno voiced similar concerns (as Councilmember Barnes), stating he does not think all options were explored thoroughly before the rate increase was proposed. He said many in the community, including small businesses, struggle already, and an increase could put them into the red.

The Chronicle, June 29, 2016

What Can We Do?

Government

From a government perspective, I oppose unnecessary tax and rate increases and I advocate for sound fiscal policies that look at efficiencies first. Tax increase are not inevitable. Short and Long term planning can help reduce and eliminate any need for tax increases on working families.

At a time when our reserves are growing, government should not be taxing families and small business, and most certainly not creating new revenue sources. Government should be incentivizing growth and capital investments.

Consumers

  1. Add Attic Insulation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (USDE), the attic is where most of your home’s heat escapes to
  2. Apply Weather Stripping. Weather stripping is very easy to install, and it will make a big difference in keeping out drafts. Feel around doors and windows for drafts of cold air.
  3. Insulate Outlets and Light Switches.This smaller project is one that’s often forgotten about because people don’t realize that outlets and switches can be sources of air leaks.
  4. Install Low-Flow Shower Heads. A low-flow shower can save 4-5 gallons of water per minute. If you have one teenager in your home then that could equal 150 gallons per shower. 🙂 Low-flow shower heads really run the gamut on price: $10 on up to $200 or more (e.g. Niagara 1.50 GPM Low Flow Massage Showerhead).
  5. Insulate Water Heater. The USDE estimates that insulating hot water heater jackets prevent standby heat loss by 25-45%. Thus, you’ll be heating your water more efficiently simply by wrapping up your hot water tank.
  6. Buy Energy Star Appliances. Energy Star rated refrigerators, washers, furnaces, and water heaters use a fraction of the energy their non-rated counterparts use. Don’t forget to take advantage of the Energy Star Tax Credit for the purchase of appliances, doors, and windows.
  7. Tax Credits For Improvements. Take advantage of tax credits for renewable energy. The residential energy tax credit is still available through 2019 and then gradually the credit increases through 2021. Check out IRS Form 5695.

Seniors and Disabled

Not everyone can take advantage of making residential home improvements. The City of Centralia offers several programs.

ELECTRIC (Centralia Municipal Code 13.04.025)

Seniors 62 years of age and over and totally disabled persons residing in separately metered dwellings with a total gross household income of $30,000 per year or less (annually from January 1 through December 31) do not pay the customer charge. Please ask for details and an exemption form at the Customer Service Center, 500 North Pearl Street. Forms are also available on the City of Centralia’s website under Departments/Customer Service Center/Forms/Disabled Senior Discounts.

SEWER (Centralia Municipal Code 15.10.050)

Seniors 62 years of age and over and totally disabled persons residing in single family dwellings with a total gross household income of $30,000 per year or less (annually from January 1 through December 31) pay a reduced monthly user charge. Please ask for details and an exemption form at the Customer Service Center, 500 North Pearl Street. Forms are also available on the City of Centralia’s website under Departments/Customer Service Center/Forms/Disabled Senior Discounts.

WATER (Centralia Municipal Code 15.04.130)

Seniors (62 and over) and totally disabled persons residing in single family dwellings with a meter size less than 1” and with a total gross household income of $30,000 per year or less (annually from January 1 through December 31) pay a reduced monthly meter charge. Please ask for details and an exemption form at the Customer Service Center, 500 North Pearl Street. Forms are also available on the City of Centralia’s website under Departments/Customer Service Center/Forms/Disabled Senior Discounts.

Veterans Relief Fund

Lewis County Veterans or spouses of veterans may be eligible for assistance through the Veterans Relief Fund. Possible help includes: Funeral Expenses; Utilities; Rent/Housing; Emergency Medical Expenses; Food Vouchers; and Gas Vouchers.

Call the Lewis County Veterans’ Benefits Specialist, 360-740-1417, to schedule an appointment to submit your application or you may bring in your application 9am-3pm Monday through Thursday. For more information visit Lewis County Veterans Relief Fund.

Washington 211

Call 211 for Housing and Utility Resources

For community resources and information on available services, dial 2-1-1. 2-1-1 is an easy to remember telephone number that provides free and confidential information on local resources for food, housing, employment, health care, counseling, housing and utility costs, and more. CLICK HERE to access the 2-1-1 database.