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Inverness will seek to plug water deficits

The city of Inverness is considering a proposal to hike its water and sewer rates early next year, a move that would boost an average bill by 40 percent.

Since 2000, the city's rates have held steady. But new figures indicate the system ran a $455,731 deficit in 2005, prompting city leaders to dip into reserve funds and look at adjusting the rate structure.

The average resident - who uses about 5,000 gallons of water and sewer per month - would see the monthly bill increase $13.03, said Donna Kilbury, the city's finance director.

She said the increase is needed to offset operational costs. "The rates haven't increased in six years, and that's part of the problem," Kilbury said. "It's a larger jump than I feel comfortable with normally. (But) we should have done it sooner, and then it wouldn't be as much."

City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said rates were adjusted about every three years, but not in 2003 because of staff turnover and large projects, such as the building of the government center.

He cautioned that the proposal drafted by the city staff is tentative and likely wouldn't go into effect until April.

Council members will be briefed on the proposal and a recent study of the system during a public workshop Thursday. No formal decisions about a rate increase will be made until early next year, officials said.

According to city documents, the base cost of water service would increase from the current $6.31 to $6.50. The cost per 1,000 gallons would go from $1.22 to $2.15. Those who use more than 10,000 gallons would pay extra under a proposed tiered system that charges more to those who use more.

On the sewer service side, the base would increase from $6.31 to $9.50. The cost per 1,000 gallons would go from $2.74 to $3.74. The proposal would also boost the 8,000-gallon cap to 15,000 gallons. Now, customers who use more than 8,000 gallons aren't charged extra for the additional service.

The increase would apply to city residents and county residents who pay a premium to use the city's water system.

In comparison with other local water providers, the city's rates are still lower: In 2005, Crystal River charged an average customer $47.63. The county bills the same use at $47.95, Inverness figures show.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 860-7312.

IF YOU GO

Meeting planned

The Inverness City Council will be briefed by the staff on a proposed increase in water and sewer rates at a public workshop 6 p.m. Thursday at the Inverness Government Center.

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