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Brevard County raises Water/Sewer Rates

Last updated on February 11, 2022

After months of planning and studies, Brevard County Commissioners voted Tuesday night to approve increases in water and sewer rates for residents served by the county.

The increases, passed in two resolutions, will be implemented in annual steps and will differ from one area to the next.  

Money generated from the rate increases will meet different needs, for different facilities, to serve different residents throughout the area, but were rationalized primarily to cover the costs of infrastructure and ongoing expenses related to water and sewer services.

County officials had been studying and discussing the proposal for a few months. The first resolution dealt with those using the Barefoot Bay Water and Sewer District System, exclusively those in living in District 3, represented by Commissioner John Tobia.

“Given the history of the failing water system, the crushing $17 million bond which we cannot pay off before 2029, and, quite frankly, past boards’ poor fiscal decisions, I don’t feel I have any responsible choice other than to approve the rate resolution, as it is necessary under the unfortunate circumstances we were handed,” Tobia said to justify his vote in favor of the resolution.

Based on background information provided in the agenda packet, utility services staff reviewed the water and sewer capacity, as well as the condition of existing infrastructure, with the help of a consultant. They determined that a rate increase was necessary to comply with two Florida statutes concerning reusing reclaimed water and  sewage disposal facility regulations.

The money will go toward a new wastewater treatment facility. The new facility must be located outside of the Barefoot Bay Water and Sewer boundaries to meet the needs of those living within the district and for future development plans outside of it. Staff proposed financing the entire project and the rate increases would pay for Barefoot Bay’s portion for construction and ongoing operations and maintenance cost for the district.

A rate increase also will pay for a new water reclamation site to replace the existing water treatment plant. Staff estimated it will cost between $55 million and $65 million to build the two facilities, not including the land acquisition.    

Finally, the additional revenue will pay for expenses related daily operations and maintenance. Revenue from the rate increases will be split between capital investment and daily operations and maintenance expenses, with 65% going toward the former and the remaining percentage to the latter.

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When will the rate increase start?

The rate will increase annually, allowing for a 10% increase this year, followed by 13% in 2023, 2024 and 2025. From then on, the rate hikes will be indexed to inflation.

For example, new rate would increase a household with a monthly water bill of $37.07 by about $2.36 for this year. That same location whose monthly sewer bill was $77.08 would have their rate increase by $4.90 for 2022.

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The second resolution involved rate increases for residents in South Beaches, Merritt Island, North Brevard, Port St. John, South-Central Mainland Service Area and the San Sebastian Woods Water System.

The proposed rate increases would be smaller in magnitude, with a 6.5% increase projected this year and 8.5% for 2023 through 2025, and a 7.5% increase for 2026. The rate would be indexed to the cost of living afterwards.

Residents living within the San Sebastian Water District will be indexed automatically beginning in March of 2022 and will be indexed automatically beginning January of the subsequent years.

As an example, a household with a monthly water bill of $30.12 will experience a rate increase of 99 cents for this year. That same household with a sewer bill of $49.12 will have a $1.61 rate increase for 2022.

The rate increase for these districts will be allocated to the South Beaches Facility, which will cost about $5 million, and the South Beaches water reclamation site that will be about $16 million.

Money will be directed toward personnel. About 23 additional employees will be needed at a cost of $2.5 million.

Another portion will be used to upgrade the water and wastewater treatment plant in Mims. More residents are expected to utilize the serves of that district and expanding the site will cost an additional $42 million.

“These are for user fees,” Commissioner Rita Pritchett said. “This is really good that when you use a product, you pay for the product.”

A third portion will upgrade wastewater facility at Port. St. John because it has exceeded its useful life. Investing in expanded capacity at that location will require an investment of $31.4 million.

Remaining money from the rate increases will be directed to septic to sewer projects and maintenance and operations. 

Some members of the public supported the rate increases, claiming they are needed for repairing and maintaining the infrastructure, absent Environmental Protection Agency grants that are no longer available.

“The $460 million you are going to raise from the increased rates, and the sales tax plan that has been approved is raising about $480 million worth of improvements to the lagoon,” said resident Jim Glass of Melbourne. “I don’t believe that is nearly enough to fund the improvements to the lagoon. It needs to be in the order of $2 billion.”

Others made comments with respect to the quality of water, expressing their health concerns because of microbes and other problems.

Money from the American Rescue Plan Act was allocated to the project that mitigated the rate increases to some degree, but staff estimated that an increase was still necessary.

This article first appeared on FloridaToday.com

Michael Lynch
Author: Michael Lynch

Raised on the Space Coast, I want to keep North Brevard informed of what's happening. Send Tips / Story Ideas to TitusvilleMedia@gmail.com

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