MANATEE -- Manatee County officials are seeking a 9.7 percent increase in water and sewer rates in the next two years to help pay for repairs to the aging utility system infrastructure.
Water rates would go up for single-family customers using 6,000 gallons monthly, from the current rate of $63.91 a month to $66.95 in 2015, and up again to $70.13 in 2016, according to the county utility department.
Rates for those using 10,000 gallons a month would go up from $90.47 a month to $94.77 in 2015, and up again to $99.27 in 2016, the chart said.
The anticipated revenue increase for the county was estimated annually at almost $4.4 million, said Amy Pilson, spokeswoman for the Manatee County Utility Department.
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Commercial customers with a one-inch meter and using 15,000 gallons a month now pay $152.38, which would jump to $159.62 a month in 2015, and to $167.20 in 2016, according to the county.
The utility system has 108,000 combined water and sewer accounts, Pilson said.
The first rate increase of 5 percent would go into effect Jan. 1 if county commissioners approve during a meeting Tuesday, while the second increase would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
The rate hikes "will provide financial stability, repair and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, and support its excellent bond ratings," officials wrote in a report for Tuesday's meeting.
Utility rate hikes are particularly hard on the poor and senior citizens living on fixed incomes, said Shirley Pearson, executive director of Palmetto's Mount Carmel Community Resource Center, which aids the needy.
"Of course, our clients are lower-income, it would definitely affect them because a lot of them don't have that much income," said Pearson. "They're seniors not getting much Social Security, so any rate hikes would affect them."
The Mount Carmel center, located at 1314 Second Ave. W., Palmetto, does not provide help paying utility bills, but does refer people to organizations that do, she said.
The proposed rate increases are meant to address capital improvement projects, including maintenance, repair and upgrades to aging infrastructure, Pilson said.
That does not include Phase One of an expensive repair at the Lake Manatee Dam. Last week, county commissioners OK'd a change order for $2.8 million covering a portion of the dam repair contract, Pilson said.
The total cost of Phase One of the project at the East Manatee dam, which provides drinking water to the county utility system, is almost $19 million, she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.