Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Increases Utilities Rates

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Increases Utilities Rates

Article excerpt

SARASOTA: Money will pay for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years

SARASOTA -- Water and sewage bills will increase by 12 percent over the next two years for Sarasota city utilities customers, while some complain that developers continue to get breaks at the public's expense.

The City Commission approved the water and sewage rate increases Monday to pay for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years. Rates will increase by 6 percent next year, and another 6 percent the following year.

For a typical single-family residence, that will mean an additional $4.28 on next year's monthly utility bill, and another $4.53 the following year. That comes after 4 percent increases in 2012 and again in 2013.

Some who have complained about the rate increases said part of the financial problem could be traced to the city's 2011 decision to cut water and sewage impact fees for developers.

City commissioners and utilities staff downplayed the connection, but agreed that the impact fee cuts amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the utilities.

Dan Lobeck, president of the local advocacy group Control Growth Now, reminded commissioners that the city decided in 2011 to suspend, for 10 years, water and sewage impact fees for developers. The impact fees had raised as much as $500,000 in a year to offset the need for added infrastructure.

Lobeck said the cost of utilities was being shifted from developers to the public, and suggested that the impact fees be reinstated early.

"It would be outrageous if our City Commission hit our businesses and residents with a rate increase of 12 percent while giving a free ride to developers," Lobeck said. …

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