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Water rate rise reduced

Pinellas County water and sewer rates are going up. But water rates won't rise as much as county staff originally proposed. County commissioners agreed late Tuesday to spend $40-million of utilities' reserve funds to make the water rate increase lower than it would otherwise have been. Water rates will rise over the next five years. The rate now is $2.25 per 1,000 gallons. But rates would have risen to $2.59 per 1,000 next year, increasing each year to $4.45 per 1,000 in 2006. Instead, rates will go up to $2.54 per 1,000 next year, increasing each year to $4.04 per 1,000 gallons in 2006. Those rates are for the county's direct customers in unincorporated Pinellas, Largo, Kenneth City, Seminole and beach towns. The county's rates for the water it sells wholesale also will increase, but also by a smaller amount than originally planned. The county sells water wholesale to Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor and Oldsmar. Some of those cities already have increased rates, or plan to do so soon. Commissioners also agreed Tuesday to increase sewer rates next year. The base charge will increase from $8 per month to $9, then next year to $10. The volume rate will go from $3.10 per 1,000 gallons to $3.38, then to $3.65.

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