NEW PORT RICHEY — City council members took a first step this week to increase fees for renters and property owners on delinquent water accounts.
The council approved a first reading of changes to an ordinance that would increase water security deposits for accounts that are opened in the name of a renter for water and sewer from $125 to $200. The hike is needed as the city is faced with collecting on accounts left unpaid by renters who take off.
"We have to pursue them," said Finance Director Peter Altman.
If a second reading is approved, property owners will also face a "vacant account fee" of about $8 a month for properties connected to city utilities even if there is not an active account or no water is being consumed.
The ordinance would also reduce the number of days after a bill's due date that an account is considered delinquent from 25 to 20.
In other news, big changes are coming to traffic patterns around Orange Lake and Sims Park in the heart of the city as plans take shape for a new playground and other park improvements.
The council also received a final financial audit for the 2012-13 fiscal year that showed tough budget cuts and layoffs the prior year helped stabilize finances. The audit showed the city's funds and reserves increased overall from $5.5 million to $6.8 million in 2013.
The city also saw a bump in utility revenue from $700,000 to $1.1 million, primarily due to increased water purchases from neighboring Port Richey.