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City Council considers merit of fee rise

By JODIE TILLMAN
Published March 1, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - In a city that sells itself as an affordable place to build, a classic tension emerged this week.

How does New Port Richey keep its impact fees low enough to attract developers - and high enough that current residents aren't footing the bill for the newcomers?

A majority of City Council members said at a Tuesday work session they support gradually raising the water and wastewater impact fees levied on developments, though not as much as city administrators are requesting. The council did not settle on a figure.

City Finance Director Rick Snyder had recommended the council raise the total fee per unit from $1,869 to $3,420, nearly 83 percent. Current fees aren't covering the true costs of extending water and sewer service to the new developments, he said.

If impact fees aren't raised, he noted, then the city will have to consider increasing residents' water and sewer fees to pay for the needed upgrades. City residents pay base water and sewer fees of $14.90 a month plus additional charges based on how much they use.

During the last three years, the city has used impact fees to pay for nearly $6-million in sewer and water improvements. Now that account has a deficit of $900,000, reports Snyder. He expects to ask the city council in coming months for permission to borrow between $4-million and $6-million to pay for new water and sewer projects and cover the deficit.

But most council members said they wanted to move slowly on raising fees. The city's pitch to developers, particularly those thinking of annexing into the city, is: It's a lot cheaper to build in the city than in the county.

Pasco County's water and sewer fees currently total $3,613.

That contrast has been "the carrot" for attracting development, said council member Ginny Miller. "I do want to be careful with this," she said.

Council member Tom Lackey was the only one who supported immediately raising the fees to the full amount requested by city officials.

Even if the city did raise the impact fees the full amount, the bill to developers would still be much less than in the county.

Total county impact fees, which cover items such as parks and schools, are around $14,700, a city report says. By contrast, the total fees for one residential unit in the city would be $7,776, which includes water, sewer and school costs.

Jodie Tillman covers the city of New Port Richey. She can be reached at 727 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.