Palmetto residents could see hike in their utility bills this year. Here’s how much

Palmetto residents could see an increase in their city utility bills, including storm water, water, reclaimed water and sewage rates, starting Oct. 1 after a utilities rate study was conducted.

Palmetto city commissioners are considering increasing the cost of those services this year, and by a set percentage each year until 2028.

If approved, an average monthly utility bill in the city would increase by an average of 2.7 percent per year through 2028.

“I think the city’s trying to be proactive and make sure that we’re able to continue to provide good service to residents,” city clerk Jim Freeman said.

Here’s the increase customers could see in rates:

  • Water and sewer rates, depending on usage, would increase by 4 percent in October and another 2 percent every subsequent year through 2028.
  • The rate for reclaimed water, which is not based on use, would increase by 7 percent in October and 3.5 percent every subsequent year through 2028.
  • Storm water, which is also not usage-based, would increase by 10 percent in October and 5 percent every subsequent year through 2028.

Should the proposed rates be approved, the average utility bill in Palmetto in 2028 will be about $130 per month, according to a rate study.

The city is considering increasing utility rates to keep up with inflation and the cost of continuing to provide residents with services, Freeman said.

Some of the money generated by the higher rates will also allow the city to invest in its systems and continue to maintain them. Freeman said they are trying to minimize any potential issues and maintain water quality.

In the next 10 years, average monthly utility rates would rise a total of 27 percent. This is assuming a 1,500 to 1,999 square-foot house using 4,000 gallons per month. The monthly bill covers water, sewer, reclaimed water, storm water and garbage pickup.

The newly proposed increases would be lower than those adopted in previous years.

Over the past 10 years, average monthly utility rates rose from $70.43 in 2008 to $102.99 in 2018, a total 46 percent increase.

“If you look from 2008 to 2012, for those five years there, our rates were pretty flat,” Freeman said. “So we were really kind of falling behind a bit there because we went five years without adjustments,” Freeman said.

After a rate study was performed, utility rates climbed an average of 15 percent between 2012 and 2013 before leveling out once more.

“That’s why we’re trying to put an annual index in place so we don’t get behind and have to have drastic changes,” Freeman said.

A rate study provided to city commissioners included a look at local monthly reclaimed/reuse water cost trends and reported Palmetto’s rate of $12.73 is “competitive” (based on a set usage and meter size) when compared to other area providers. Sarasota was the highest rate at $34.57 while Englewood was found to be the lowest at $6.

As for monthly residential storm water costs, Palmetto was found in the study to be one of the more affordable local providers, at $5.76, based on comparisons and an analysis of monthly bills in the area. The most expensive was Naples at $13.68 and the cheapest was Hillsborough County at $3.50, Bradenton came in just above them at $4.87.

Palmetto’s combined water and sewer bills fall near the middle of the pack, at $78.68 per month assuming the use of 5,000 gallons. Plant City had the lowest water and sewer bill, Bradenton the second-lowest at $66.94, while Fort Myers cost the most at $116.44 per month.

The city of Bradenton approved a 4 percent hike in utility fees in 2018 for the second straight year to offset operating costs. The move came after three years without an increase in fees.

Despite concerns from citizens, Sarasota city commissioners in a 3-2 vote recently passed a first reading of a proposed water and sewer rate hike that would increase bills by 3.5 percent each year over 11 years. These funds would go to the operation of the systems as well as the city’s capital improvement plan.

A public hearing on the proposed increase in utility rates for Palmetto is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at City Hall.

Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.