Wastewater rates to rise in Tampa

06/18/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Mayor Pam Iorio's administration wants to raise sewer rates for Tampa citizens dramatically over the next three years.

Finance Director Bonnie Wise came before the Tampa City Council this morning, where she said rates would need to increase by 34 percent over the next five years. The rate increase would hit hard initially, with a 14½ percent increase next year, followed by a 12 percent increase in 2011, and 8 percent in 2012.

Asked if the increase could be spread out more evenly over the five years, Wise said the city couldn’t afford do that.

Wastewater Department Director Ralph Metcalf assured the Council that the increases were crucial to keep the basic sewage system working.

Budget Director Bonnie Wise sympathized that in the middle of one of the region’s worst recessions, now is not the ideal time to raise fees for any services.

Using charts, Wise told the Council that currently, the average Tampa family pays $33 in monthly sewer charges. A 14 percent increase would raise that rate $5, and ultimately capping out at $46 a month by 2014.

Wise showed that comparatively speaking, Tampa’s highest rate in 2014 would still be lower than several other local municipalities, including what Hillsborough County residents currently pay in wastewater fees.

John Dingfelder was among those Council members stunned by the news. And even though he was told by Wise that it wouldn’t be feasible to break up the percentage increases over the course of the next five years, Dingfelder asked Wise to come up with a plan to do just that.

City Attorney Chip Fletcher said the issue would go back to the Council, probably by late August.

Included in Wise’s proposal is an increase to those customers to the city’s sewer system that don’t live inside Tampa city limits.

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