Board votes 6-2 to raise rates $1.05 per month
By Kyle LoJacono
The average family will see its water bill increase about $12 a year as Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors voted to raise rates by 5.53 percent June 21.
It was not the increase first projected, but Tampa Bay Water will be allowed to raise its rates for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Tampa Bay Water’s board, which is made up of politicians from Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, voted 6-2 June 21 to increase the price of water by $1.05 per month for those using 8,000 gallons. That is an increase of about 5.53 percent.
Michelle Rapp, spokeswoman for Tampa Bay Water, said the group had wanted an increase of $1.52 for every 8,000 gallons. The rate increase is needed because the supplier is not selling enough water to make its budget.
“People’s conservation has been part of the case, but it’s not all because of that,” said Koni Cassini, Tampa Bay Water director of finance and administration “We have also seen a decrease because of the very wet winter. People don’t need to water their lawns or plants because of the recent weather. On top of that, the down economy has unfortunately led to many foreclosures and obviously those houses aren’t using any water either.”
Tampa Bay Water is the wholesaler of water to public utilities in the three counties and also to the cities of Tampa, New Port Richey and St. Petersburg. Everyone in non-incorporated areas of Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas and residents of those three cities will see their rates increase.
Zephyrhills, Dade City, San Antonio and St. Leo have their own water supply. Also, those who get water from a well will not be affected.
The supplier’s board has nine members. Hillsborough commissioners Al Higginbotham and Mark Sharpe voted against the increase, while New Port Richey Mayor Scott McPherson was not present.
Pasco Commissioner Ted Schrader said he was against raising the price to $1.52 in April and said he wanted to see Tampa Bay Water work more on cutting costs before he would vote for any increase.
“I was in favor of it now for a couple reasons,” Schrader said. “First, Tama Bay Water has done a good job finding alternative water sources from ground water. That is the easiest and cheapest source, but to preserve the ecosystems in Tampa Bay they have developed surface water and desalinization sources, which are more expensive.
“Also we saw them reduce their budget to bring the cost done for the public,” Schrader continued. “The reduction was significant and they had to reduce the number of employees, but in the end they will be able to provide safe water to the public and maintain financial stability. I’m confident they did all they could to bring the price down.”
Schrader represents county district 1, which covers all of Zephyrhills, Dade City, San Antonio and much of Wesley Chapel. He has been on Tampa Bay Water’s board since 2000.
Cassini said the budget for Tampa Bay Water was projected to be $163 million for the 2010-11 year in April, down from $176 million from this year, but that number dropped again to $160 million for the final approval.
The increase is on the price of water only, not other expenses on water bills such as the cost of storm sewers. Those using exactly 8,000 gallons per month will pay $12.60 more a year.
Rapp said the increase is given for those using 8,000 gallons a month because that is what the average family of four uses. The amount will be different based on how much water is used, making it more expensive for those who use more water like the Pasco School District.
While the price of water will be a larger part of the school budget next year, the school board had already planned for the increase. They projected the price of water to increase by 10 percent, according to district spokeswoman Summer Romangnoli.
The six areas that buy the water from Tampa Bay Water together fund the development of new supplies, share in environmental stewardship and pay the same wholesale water rates according the utility’s Web site, www.tampabaywater.org. It provides 186 million gallons of water each day to about 2.4 million Tampa Bay residents and was formed in 1998.
“We are an extension of the member government and are a nonprofit,” Rapp said. “We only pass along our costs to the consumer. We don’t make money beyond what it takes to fund our facilities.”
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