A 10 percent hike is approved for 2006 in Indian Rocks Beach. A tentative plan calls for the same in '07 and '08.
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published December 18, 2005
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Residents here will pay 10 percent more for sewer services, beginning in January and could see an increase of more than 30 percent in the next three years.
"We are looking at a significant fund balance shortage," Martin Schless, the city's interim finance director, told the City Commission last week.
As a result, the commission unanimously approved a new rate schedule to hike sewer fees next year.
Unless the city's finances change drastically in the next few years, administrators plan to ask for similar hikes in 2007 and 2008.
The increases are needed, according to Schless, because current sewer service fee revenues will not cover the anticipated $370,000 cost of the planned South Beach main relocation project without sharply depleting reserves.
Those reserves would be further depleted, he said, by ongoing maintenance projects, including pipe and equipment replacements, lift station repairs and increased personnel costs.
Residents currently pay $21.56 per month. Beginning in January, that fee will jump to $23.72. Nonresidential and mixed-use customers will be charged a similar increase.
According to a plan tentatively approved during budget discussions earlier this year, rates in following years would also increase by another 10 percent in 2007 and again in 2008.
No further increase is anticipated for 2009, and city officials hope to reduce rates by about 10 percent in 2010.
The increases drew sharp criticism from residents at the commission meeting.
"I am shocked by the significant increase in the sewer rate," said Jose Coppen.
Ed Piniero suggested the city use increases in property taxes to offset the costs.
"Ten percent a year for three consecutive years is a little high," Piniero said.
Commissioners were sympathetic but did not back off the rate increase.
"We are trying to make this a gradual increase, a smoother process," said Commissioner R.B. Johnson. "We can tweak it next year, but right now it is the most solid plan."
Commissioner Jeremiah Carmody suggested residents could reduce their sewer and water bills by using reclaimed water.
"We will look at this every year," City Manager Al Grieshaber said. "If we can save ratepayers money, we shall certainly do that. We just want to keep the fund healthy."