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Water rate increase will save some money

The 4.15 percent increase will, however, save up to $15 a month for the one-third of the system's customers who use the least amount of water.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 26, 2002

The 4.15 percent increase will, however, save up to $15 a month for the one-third of the system's customers who use the least amount of water.

PINELLAS PARK -- Water rates will change later this year, a fact that will thrill some who will see huge savings and irk others who will be paying more.

Council members earlier this month agreed both to change the way the city's water rates are determined and to increase the price for water by 4.15 percent.

The new rate structure is designed to reward those who use the least water. Folks who use 2,000 or fewer gallons a month will see the biggest savings. About 5,236 users, or one-third of the system's 15,770 customers, fall into that category.

Those residents now pay $24.87 a month for water and sewer. When the new rates and structure go into effect Oct. 1, the same users will see their water and sewer bill drop to as low as $10 a month.

The hardest-hit customers will be the approximately 2,200 people who use 3,000 gallons of water each month. With the new structure, their monthly bills will increase by $6.55 to $31.42.

And the news gets worse.

On Jan. 1, Pinellas Park will increase water rates again to pass on an increase in costs from Pinellas County, which supplies water to the city.

And, come next year, the council has agreed to raise water rates by another 4.15 percent.

That increase, like the one this year, will help ensure there's enough money in the Water Department to pay for repairs and replacement of the more than 600 miles of pipeline.

The decision to change both the rates and the structure has been coming for a long time. Council members have been discussing the possibility for a couple of years.

Council member Rick Butler has long held that the city should not be charging people who have not used much water.

"My philosophy is don't charge for something someone isn't using," Butler said. "If I'm using a product, I need to pay for a product. If I'm not using it, I shouldn't have to pay for it."

He said the minimum monthly charge of $24.87 hurt those who could least afford it -- retirees and others with low incomes.

Council member Ed Taylor agreed, but he also said the monthly minimum charge applies whether someone uses zero gallons or 3,000 gallons. That provides little incentive to conserve water if folks are being charged for it, he said.

The best thing, Taylor said, is to put the heaviest costs on the people who use most of the water.

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