Bills may be going up for Pinellas County Utilities customers.
On Thursday, county leaders discussed proposed increases in water, sewer and reclaimed water rates over the next several years.
They directed the county staff to bring the matter back to them next month. That's when they'll decide whether to advertise a public hearing on the increases.
The proposals don't call for a hike in monthly water rates for the county's approximately 112,000 retail customers in fiscal year 2012. But if the proposals are approved, the base rate water customers pay will go up $1 in each of the following three years. Rates charged for the quantity of water used will not change.
Conservation of water and the economic downturn have contributed to the need to raise rates, said Kevin Becotte, the interim utilities director
"We're working towards seeing how we can come through this and still maintain our system with the integrity we need to for our customers," Becotte told commissioners.
Besides unincorporated residents, the county utilities department also serves customers in Seminole, Kenneth City, Largo and most beach communities south of Clearwater.
Increases are the result of a variety of factors, including Tampa Bay Water rate increases and decreases in water sales, he said. From 2007 to 2016, the county projects a 30 percent decrease in water sales, he said. Much of that is related to three of its wholesale customers, Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar and Clearwater, which are developing their own water supplies.
The county is also looking at borrowing about $23 million down the road for facility improvements and other upgrades, Becotte said.
Wholesale customers, which include a number of area cities, would see a 4 percent rate increase each year over the next four years, according to the proposals. Those cities could decide to pass the rate increase on to their customers.
The proposals also call for a 6 percent increase in sewer rates for retail customers each year for the next four years. The typical retail customer, who uses 5,000 gallons of potable water per month, would see an increase of $1.78 each month in sewer bills in the next fiscal year. That increase would begin Oct. 1 of this year.
Reclaimed water rates for the county's unmetered customers would go up $1 each year as well.
If county commissioners agree to advertise a hearing, the rate proposals would come back before the board on Sept. 27. If approved, the legislation would take effect Oct. 1.