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Expenses gush as sewer, water revenues dribble in

Zephyrhills considers fee increases after operating expenses balloon 64 percent over five years while revenues grow 7.5.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published August 22, 2005


ZEPHYRHILLS - City officials are set to consider raising water and sewer rates for the first time in about a decade.

City Manager Steve Spina is proposing bumps in both the base fee and usage fee for city utilities, which would affect city residents and Pasco County residents who are served by Zephyrhills utilities.

Spina said the increases are overdue.

"I think we have been derelict in not doing it to keep up with the costs of extending the services," he said. "We try to keep everything reasonable. That's one of the goals."

He cited a March financial review of the city's utility fund by Public Financial Management Group, comparing revenues and operating expenses. The review found that revenues have grown 7.5 percent during the past five years, while operating expenditures ballooned 64 percent.

The review says that while the utility department has so far been able to pay without borrowing for capital projects, such as replacement equipment at the wastewater treatment plant, that trend isn't likely to continue. The study predicts the margin between available money and capital costs will continue to shrink.

City residents now pay a base rate of $2.81 a month for water, plus $1.25 per 1,000 gallons used. Non-city residents pay a $3.58 base rate and $1.87 per 1,000 gallons.

Spina is proposing a new city base rate of $3.50 and a graduated fee scale for water usage. The base water rate for non-city residents would increase to $4.38, also adopting a graduated scale for usage.

For sewer, only base rates would change, not usage fees. The city rate would go from $6.60 a month to $7.52, and out of city from $9.18 to $10.45.

If the new rates are adopted, utility customers both inside and outside the city will see hikes in their monthly bills.

A city bill of $35.55 would rise to $38.37 under the new rates. That figure includes charges for garbage pickup and use of an irrigation system, which not all homes have. A non-city bill of $59.09 would jump to $65.87 if the new rates are adopted.

The City Council must approve the changes for them to go into effect. Its meeting is set for 6 tonight at City Hall.

--Molly Moorhead covers news about Zephyrhills. She can be reached at 352 521-6521 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6521. Her e-mail address is moorhead@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 22, 2005, 01:08:08]


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