Most Pinellas residents will see jumps in the price of water and sewer service for the next four years if a county-proposed rate increase goes through.
The increase would affect those who directly get their water and sewer service from Pinellas County Utilities, as well as those who buy from a municipality supplied by the county. That includes a number of cities, plus much of the unincorporated area. It does not include St. Petersburg, which has its own system. The first increase would go into effect Oct. 1. Subsequent increases would become effective as of Oct. 1, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The increases are necessary "to provide a long term, safe, reliable and environmentally sound water, sewer and reclaimed water system," according to the county's website.
More specifically, the rate increases will pay for improvements to the system and the increased cost of obtaining water from Tampa Bay Water. The price increases also will offset the expected loss of business when Tarpon Springs and Oldsmar finish building their own water supplies, said Kevin Becotte, Pinellas County Utilities' interim director. Clearwater also is expanding its own water supply and will take more customers from the county system.
Over the next three years or so, Becotte said, the county is looking at a reduction of 10 million gallons a day in the demand for water from its system.
The price increases will affect hundreds of thousands of people. Pinellas County Utilities has 112,000 retail meters, Becotte said. Added to that are consumers in municipalities and unincorporated Pinellas who get their water and sewer service from cities that buy from the county.
The rate increase is not a done deal. The County Commission will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater, to decide whether to raise the rates.
Retail customers — those who live in parts of the unincorporated area and the cities of Largo, Seminole, Kenneth City and the beach communities — would see no increase in water costs for next year. But, starting Oct. 1, 2012, they would see a 29.9 percent increase in the monthly base charge for water. It is now $3.35; it would go to $4.35. It would increase to $5.35 per month on Oct. 1, 2013, and then to $6.35 per month on Oct. 1, 2014.
However, those retail customers would see a 63-cent increase in the current $10.50 monthly base rate for sewer service beginning Oct. 1. That rate would continue to increase each Oct. 1 through 2014, when it would reach $13.26 per month. Also going up is the cost per thousand gallons of sewer for retail customers. Currently $3.84 per thousand gallons, the proposed increase would mean an additional 23 cents per thousand gallons on Oct. 1, 2011. Rates would increase again on Oct. 1 in 2012, 2013 and 2014, reaching a total then of $4.84 per thousand gallons.
The county also intends to raise its wholesale water rates to the cities of Clearwater, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs. The current rate of about $3.30 per thousand gallons will increase to about $3.43 on Oct. 1, then again each year after until it reaches about $3.86 on Oct. 1, 2014.
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.