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St. Petersburg may increase water fees


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- The mayor didn't propose a property tax increase for next year, but it looks like residents will be paying the city more money anyway.

Stormwater, water and sewer fees are all expected to rise, costing a typical homeowner perhaps $30 more next year.

The water and sewer increases were expected. City officials said last year that rates must go up about 6 percent per year to pay for aggressive repairs and upgrades to the decades-old network of pipes for drinking water and wastewater.

Stormwater fees, on the other hand, have stayed constant at $4.50 per month for single-family homes since the fee was first collected in 1990. Construction projects are also pushing that fee higher.

The city borrowed $20-million last year to pay for projects such as increasing the size of drainage pipes in Shore Acres and building a new stormwater pond just south of Tyrone Square Mall. That pushes stormwater project loan payments $800,000 a year higher than before.

"In order to accommodate the debt payments, we will have to raise fees," City Administrator Tish Elston told City Council members Friday as they looked over the mayor's proposed budget.

Mike Connors, the city's engineering and stormwater director, said Friday that he is analyzing how rates need to rise. Like the precise amount of the water and sewer rate increases, the precise increase will not be determined until this summer.

A 50-cent monthly stormwater fee increase would raise $860,000 -- at first glance enough to make up for the higher payments. But it may not be so simple, Connors said.

The way stormwater rules stand now, all buildings besides single-family homes pay $4.50 per month for every 2,719 square feet of land covered by a building or pavement. That includes condominium developments, some of which do not send any stormwater into the city's pipes.

Those developments want the fee waived or reduced. If the City Council does that, the city would have to raise rates more for everyone else, requiring a bigger increase.

If water and sewer rates rise 6 percent and the stormwater fee goes up 50 cents per month, a single-family home using 5,600 gallons of water each month would pay $2.50 more each month, about $30 per year.

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