CLEARWATER — Utility rates for residents will increase on Oct. 1 and every year through fiscal year 2027 following two studies that recommended the adjustments to cover increased costs and long-term improvements.
The city’s stormwater rates will increase 1.75% annually for the next five years. The flat monthly fee will rise to $13.64 on Oct. 1 and to $14.61 in fiscal year 2027, an average increase of 24 cents a year.
Water, sewer and reclaimed water rates will increase 3% annually. The change will mean an increase of $2.38 per month on Oct. 1 for an average single-family user of 3,000 gallons, according to the engineering firm Stantec, which completed the rate studies.
The Clearwater City Council unanimously approved the rates on Thursday, but members lamented adding the burden to residents at a time of high inflation. However, they noted the rate studies indicated costs rising for the city and the need to continue quality service for residents.
The study showed operating and maintenance costs for the water and sewer utility will increase 3.27% over the next 10 years, including operating expenses and employee pension plan costs. The city projects $839 million in capital improvement and infrastructure costs over the next decade, including adjustments for inflation.
Water and sewer rates had increased 4% annually for the prior four years before the 3% increase that will take effect Oct. 1.
The stormwater rate increase follows an 8.5% decrease in 2020 and no change for the past two years.
Assistant director of engineering Elliot Shoberg said that was because the city had been gearing up for high capital expenditures due to pending stormwater regulations. When those regulations did not come to pass the city took the opportunity to pay off one of the bonds and reduce rates, but “now we’re back on the standard track,” he said.
“I think we’re very cognizant of trying to deliver services to our citizens in an efficient way, high quality services, and to me this is very fundamental,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said. “Water is something in this country we take for granted.”