Benton PUD pays millions in privilege taxes

Benton PUD pays millions in privilege taxes
BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- The general funds for each of the Tri-Cities pay for things like road improvements, law enforcement, and keeping the lights on at City Hall.

A big chunk of that money comes from your local utility providers,thus out of your pocket. And it's gone up every year

If you were to take your average monthly bill from the Benton PUD, you wouldn't see privilege tax written on the front. But flip it over and you might be surprised.

It doesn't look like much, but the roughly four and a half percent you pay to Benton PUD in taxes adds up quickly.

"I think everybody should know about it," says Janice Smith.

Janice is a PUD customer. She didn't even know she was being charged an extra tax.

"Are the taxes gonna keep getting raised all the time? How much is too much?" she added.

The state mandates utility providers, like Benton PUD, pay what's called a privilege tax more plainly, a tax for being the one providing you with power. But this tax ends up paying out dividends to the cities that fall in their range. Cities like Kennewick rely on these taxes for more than 20 percent of their general fund.

"We've added new parks to our system and recreational opportunities to our community and also expanding some of the services our public safety personnel provide," says Kennewick spokesperson Evelyn Lusignan.

In 2011, Benton PUD paid just over two million dollars in privilege taxes. About half of that ended up back in the coffers of your local cities. Last year, that jumped to 2.26 million dollars.

Reporter: "What can the city expect to do with that money? Do they plan for growth or not? What do they do?"

"Well actually, what we've seen is in terms of keeping up with the growth in our communities so as our community grows, those revenues are keeping up with the expansion of our population," Evelyn added.

With more growth, comes more people paying the privilege tax, and more money being invested back into our cities.