Wednesday, November 22, 2017
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Pete City Council tentatively agrees to hike utility bills by $11 a month

RECOMMENDED READING


Start saving that couch change, ‘burgers, you might need it to pay a steeper utility bill starting in January.

A City Council committee unanimously approved a plan Thursday that would increase the average customer's monthly bill by $11.02 or 11.5 percent.

The average bill assumes 4,000 gallons of water and wastewater use a month. The total increase would be from the current rate of $95.83 to $106.85 for the vast majority of residents who don't have reclaimed water.

Reclaimed users will see an even bigger spike  in their monthly bill: from $117.12 to $133.57 or just over 14 percent.

And that's just the beginning of the effort to deal with the city's sewage crisis and other infrastructure needs.

By 2022, the water and wastewater portions of the bill will increase from $61.55 to $88.92. By 2027, those rates will top $101 a month.

The other parts of the utility bill that arrives in the mail each month won't see that types of increases, although stormwater fees are set to go up by $1 a month in January (and more in later years).  Sanitation fees may rise in future years as well.

Aside from paying for fixing aging sewer pipes, sealing manholes and other repairs to the city's beleaguered system, the increases are designed to satisfy credit agencies that want the city to pay at least 50 percent of its wastewater and water capital costs in cash.

City financial officials have warned if the city doesn't start spending more cash (and using less bond debt) to finance its infrastructure repairs, St. Petersburg's credit ratings may dip.

Currently, the city only pays about 5 percent of its water and wastewater capital costs in cash, borrowing the rest.

"It's almost beyond belief," said council member Karl Nurse. Nurse and other council members have voiced concerns of damaging the city's credit ratings if nothing is done.

Earlier this year,  Public Works Administrator Claude  Tankersley said the city's current rates were below the national average.

The increases have been discussed for months, but Thursday was the first time that council members picked a model to bring to the full council later this month. A final vote is scheduled for Dec. 7. If approved, the rates go into effect on Jan. 1.

Usually, the city issues new utility rates when its fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. But, this year, council members decided to wait until after Tuesday's election to make their decision.

They wanted to see if the Penny for Pinellas 1-cent sales tax would be reapproved by voters (it was). Penny money is used to fund various utility projects.

Mayor Rick Kriseman was also locked in a tight battle for reelection that he won Tuesday. Kriseman's campaign hadn't been a stated reason for the delay, although former mayor Rick Baker's campaign did point out the city was pushing off the steep hikes until after Election Day.

Customers understand the need to tackle the sewage crisis, said Jim Kennedy, chairman of the Budget, Finance and Taxation committee, which approved the increases.

” Our ratepayers will understand why they’re getting an increase and I don’t think they’ll understand any better than now,” Kennedy said.

Check back for more on this developing story.

Comments
Why Democrats feel Miami-Dade is moving their way

Why Democrats feel Miami-Dade is moving their way

MIAMI — Miami-Dade County has long been a crucial region for Democrats' hopes of winning races in Florida. But today, the county's Democratic lean is becoming stronger than ever.Both Al Gore and John Kerry won Miami-Dade by about 40,000 votes. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
As Trump stalls traffic on I-95, video shows people twerking to pass time

As Trump stalls traffic on I-95, video shows people twerking to pass time

From our friends at the Miami Herald:As sportswriter and author Jeff Pearlman sat in standstill traffic in Palm Beach County Tuesday evening, he took to Twitter to share an only-in-South-Florida moment.Two people got out of their car and began twerki...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bittel won’t resign committeeman post until Dec. 10, after new Democratic chair election

Bittel won’t resign committeeman post until Dec. 10, after new Democratic chair election

Ousted Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel plans to give up his post as Miami-Dade County’s state committeeman -- but not until after his successor atop the state party is elected.Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Ex...
Published: 11/21/17
Bipartisan outrage over Trump administration’s decision on Haitians

Bipartisan outrage over Trump administration’s decision on Haitians

Recriminations continued Tuesday over the Trump administration's plan to send Haitians home in 2019, a decision that brought rare bipartisan objections from Florida lawmakers."These individuals experienced severe loss and suffering as a result of the...
Published: 11/21/17
Philip Levine unveils another TV ad, this one in Spanish and on Puerto Rico

Philip Levine unveils another TV ad, this one in Spanish and on Puerto Rico

Another week, another ad for Philip Levine  — this time on helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.The bilingual ad for the 2018 candidate for Florida governor features bits of his campaign launch speech in which he noted he deliv...
Published: 11/21/17
Florida Democratic president resigns

Florida Democratic president resigns

The crisis at the top of the Florida Democratic Party continued Monday with the resignation of Sally Boynton Brown, the party's president and chief administrator.Her exit followed last week's decision by chairman Stephen Bittel to quit...
Published: 11/20/17
A lawyer for the nursing home that overheated after Irma sent a letter to Congress. Here are 3 eye-grabbing quotes.

A lawyer for the nursing home that overheated after Irma sent a letter to Congress. Here are 3 eye-grabbing quotes.

A lawyer for the Hollywood Hills nursing home that saw 14 of its patients die in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma sent a letter to congressional officials Monday that pushed back on allegations that officials with the home are to blame for the deaths....
Published: 11/20/17
Gwen Graham takes firm stance on Medicaid expansion

Gwen Graham takes firm stance on Medicaid expansion

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham drew a line in the sand on Medicaid expansion Monday.The Democratic candidate for governor said she would veto Republican legislative priorities if lawmakers refused to work with her to expand the h...
Published: 11/20/17
Virginia deputy reassigned after going to party in blackface as Frederica Wilson

Virginia deputy reassigned after going to party in blackface as Frederica Wilson

POQUOSON, Va. (AP) — A white Virginia sheriff's deputy has been reassigned after attending a Halloween party in blackface.The Washington Post reports Deputy Jean Browning, a 20-year veteran of the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office in southeast Vir...
Published: 11/20/17
Florida let hepatitis C go untreated in prisons. Now it may cost taxpayers millions.

Florida let hepatitis C go untreated in prisons. Now it may cost taxpayers millions.

The state of Florida may have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in treatment costs to as many as 20,000 sick inmates after a federal judge ruled Friday that prison officials had failed to properly care for felons infected with the hepatitis C vi...
Published: 11/20/17