Chase bill on utility district voting moves from State Senate to House

A bill that State Sen. Marilyn Chase introduced to ensure that ratepayers have a voice in a city assumption of water or sewer districts is now under consideration in the state House of Representatives after it passed the Senate last week.

Democrat Chase says that the purpose of the bill is to give voters ultimate control over whether a city or town can assume jurisdiction of such districts.

The bill passed the Senate last week by a 28-21 vote. The House committee on local government is considering it this week.

Chase, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5048, represents the 32nd Legislative District, including Lynnwood, Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas of Southwest Snohomish County, parts of Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, the City of Shoreline, and part of northwest Seattle.

She has opposed Shoreline’s attempt to assume the Ronald Wastewater District without a public vote.

“These special-purpose districts are created by a vote of the people, for the people,” she said recently. “As such, 100 percent of the taxes we pay for our water and sewer systems should be dedicated to providing the services and maintaining the system.

“These funds should not be diverted, or ‘repurposed’ for other uses such as new developments or other non-water-sewer projects unless the voters approve.”

SB 5048 would let voters call for a referendum on any attempt by a city or town to assume jurisdiction of all or part of a water or sewer district.

As with other special-service districts such as fire districts or school districts, ratepayer revenue must be spent solely for the purposes of the utility districts. However, Chase noted, if a city assumes ownership of a water or sewer district, the city may levy taxes without limits, without restrictions on what the funds are used for, and without a vote of the citizens who voted to create the district. She added that water and sewer districts are the only special-service districts that do not have a cap on the taxes that can be levied if a municipality assumes one of these districts.

“Across the state, in the wake of the Great Recession, municipalities are struggling to make ends meet — and are assuming control of water and sewer districts to increase their revenue flow for other programs and projects,” Chase said. “That’s not why people vote to create a water or sewer district. People want a reliable water and sewer system — not a funding mechanism outside of their control for projects they don’t approve.”

Utility taxes are among the most regressive taxes levied on citizens, Chase noted, adding, “Water and sewer are basic necessities and low-income rate payers have no choice in accepting or refusing service or paying the ever-increasing taxes. For example, low-income working families pay 17 percent of their income in taxes compared to wealthy families who pay only 2.8 percent.

“This bill will ensure that the democratic process can work the way it was meant to work,” Chase said. “If it’s truly in the public’s best interest for a city to assume a water or sewer district, then the city rulers should have nothing to fear from a vote by the people who would be paying the tax.”

Evan Smith can be reached at

Talk to us

More in Local News

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Mill Creek house fire leaves 1 dead

The fire was contained to a garage in the 15300 block of 25th Drive SE. A person was found dead inside.

Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday morning in the 3400 block of Broadway. (Everett Fire Department)
3 hospitalized in critical condition after Everett house fire

Firefighters rescued two people, one of whom uses a wheelchair, from the burning home in the 3400 block of Broadway.

The Walmart Store on 11400 Highway 99 on March 21, 2023 in in Everett, Washington. The retail giant will close the store on April 21, 2023. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Walmart announces Everett store on Highway 99 will close on April 21

The Arkansas-based retail giant said the 20-year-old Walmart location was “underperforming financially.”

Michael Tolley (Northshore School District)
Michael Tolley named new Northshore School District leader

Tolley, interim superintendent since last summer, is expected to inherit the position permanently in July.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
New forecast show state revenues won’t be quite as robust as expected

Democratic budget writers say they will be cautious but able to fund their priorities. Senate put out a capital budget Monday.

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Drive to build new AquaSox ballpark gets $7.4M boost from state

The proposed Senate capital budget contains critical seed money for the city-led project likely to get matched by the House.

Ron Thompson, a former resident of Steelhead Haven, places a sign marking the 9-year anniversary of the Oso landslide Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the landslide memorial site in Oso, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’s the closest I can be to them’: Nine years after the Oso mudslide

In the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, 43 people died. Families, survivors and responders honored the victims Wednesday.

Prosecutor Craig Matheson gives his opening statement in the trial of Richard Rotter at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
At trial in Everett cop’s killing, witnesses recall chaotic chase

The testimony came after an Everett officer was shot while investigating a robbery Wednesday morning, investigators said.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Pursuing pursuits, erasing advisory votes and spending battles begin

It’s Day 73. Budgets are in the forecast as lawmakers enter the final month of the 2023 session

Most Read