Question: With utility bills grabbing an ever-increasing chunk of the household budget, which US city offers the best deal in gas, electricity, and telephone rates?
Answer: Seattle. Helped by its extremely low electricity costs, Seattle's typical total monthly utilities bill of $67.93 is about 21/4 times less than New York City's $151.46. These figures come from a survey of the 25 largest cities in the United States conducted by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The commission figured 70 therms of gas, 500 kilowatt hours of electricity, and flat-rate telephone service into its calculations, based on June 30, 1983, figures.
Seattle's average monthly electricity bill of only $8.22 stems from low-cost hydroelectric generation. This compares with New York's $77.35, highest among the 25 surveyed cities.
Dallas offers the lowest monthly rate for gas: $29.72. Memphis and New Orleans are slightly higher: $35.33 and $35.85, respectively. At the upper end, New York tops the list once again at $66.08. Boston holds second-highest ''honors'' at $59.48; Washington, D.C., follows closely behind at $58.78.
Denver comes in first on phone service at $7.15. San Diego is close behind at Indianapolis, which brings up the rear in this category.
Leonard M. Grimes, president of the California PUC, said the trend toward higher gas bills is due to federal natural-gas pricing policies (now being contested in federal court by his agency). A ''sharp increase in the cost of basic telephone service is in the offing'' with the breakup of American Telephone & Telegraph, he added.