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Palm Coast Would Raise Water and Sewer Rates 20.6% Over the Next 4 Years

| July 31, 2018

palm coast sewer plant

Palm Coast’s Wastewater Treatment Plant 2 had its grand opening last June. The plant adds 2 million gallons per day of additional sewer-treatment capacity, though it’s currently treating about 1.5 million gallons daily. The original Wastewater Treatment Plant 1 on Utility Drive was built in the early 1970s. Its treatment capacity has been gradually expanded over the years (to 6.83 million gallons a day) and has nearly reached its capacity.

Your Palm Coast water and sewer rates would go up 20.6 percent over the next four years, starting in October, if the city council approves a rate-increase plan submitted to the council today.

According to figures provided by the city in a presentation, the average monthly residential bill for water and sewer, based on 4,000 gallons of consumption, is $65.76. It would rise to $69.70 later this year, $73.88 next year, and $79.33 by 2022, when the average annual bill will be $163 higher than it is now.

The proposed increases reflect the mix of an actual rate hike (6.7 percent over the next two years) in addition to the annual, automatic rate increase indexed to inflation, which is projected to be 2.9 percent this year and 2.4 percent each year after that, through 2022. The inflation increase may be higher or lower than that projected.

The increases are recommended in order to afford a planned $130 million in utility infrastructure expansion to serve new growth and to maintain the existing system, which is aging. The plan would also limit the amount of money the city would have to borrow to keep up with infrastructure needs, and to maintain its current A+ credit rating. The proposal was submitted to the Palm Coast City Council during a workshop this morning. The city administration had withheld the presentation’s powerpoint until today when the meeting started, and did not honor a FlaglerLive request for the presentation on Monday. 

Aside from ongoing annual rate increases pegged to inflation, the city last increased utility rates in 2013. The 17.6 percent increase was spread over three years and had been scaled back from an initial proposal of increasing rates 22 percent. As required by law, the council had to hold a public hearing before approving the increase. The hearing drew a more-than-capacity crowd in the council room at the old Community Center (the administration had scheduled the hearing at a 9 a.m. meeting rather than a 6:30 p.m. meeting, presumably hoping to limit the size of the crowd). Most spoke in opposition to the rate increase, some spoke in favor, and the council approved the increase 4-1. Not a single member of the council then is on the council today, but based on today’s discussion, there was scarcely any opposition to the proposed rate increase that would kick in with October’s bills.

“We can talk about parks all day long,” Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland said. “One of the most important things we do as a council is to make sure we’re maintaining our infrastructure. This is one of the key components to doing that.” The mayor sees the plan as getting ahead of the city’s needs in a pay-as-you-go approach that would not eliminate the need for further debt, but diminish the need for it. For residents, “it’s important to state the value that’s coming out of that discussion,” Holland said.

“We’ve got a new city with an older utility system and that means we’ve got to be able to spend money if we’re to keep it up to standards,” Council member Bob Cuff said. Law enforcement aside, he said, “I can’t think of a single public service that we’re providing to our residents that’s more important than water and sewer.”

The council would have to hold a public hearing soon to adopt the proposed rates and have them go into effect by October.

A rate study completed this month pegs the increase in the annual operating expenses of the utility at 4 percent a year. That increase is reflected in the city’s plan to add seven employees to its utility workforce of 137 in the coming year.

The plan is based on some assumptions, namely that growth will continue at a rate of 700 new customers per year, and that wastewater plants will continue to expand capacity. Impact fees, the one-time levy on new construction that defrays the cost of development’s impact on the city’s infrastructure, is projected to generate $20 million.

Palm Coast government bought what used to be Florida Water Services on Nov. 1, 2003, for $82.3 million, a purchase financed with debt and justified on the promise that by owning the utility, the city would have more control over its water and sewer systems, both to provide services and to limit rate increases on residents and businesses.

The city’s utility now has assets of $270 million, according to the city’s 2017 audit. The utility’s revenue is just over $42 million a year. Nearly $26 million of that is devoted to capital improvements in next year’s proposed budget. The utility in 2017 had operating expenses of $29 million. The city’s utility has $179 million in long-term debt, roughly split between loans and bonds.

Though the Palm Coast utility is part of the government–and run by government–its budget is a separate-self-sustaining operation: the government may not use utility revenue to pay for general government operations.

Palm Coast Utility Rate Study (2018)

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43 Responses for “Palm Coast Would Raise Water and Sewer Rates 20.6% Over the Next 4 Years”

  1. JustMe says:

    What say does the taxpayers have with this decision?

  2. blondee says:

    The average water/sewer bill is $65.76????? That’s the funniest thing I’ve read so far today!!

  3. Paul C Pritchard says:

    As a former county water and sewer commission member and chairman, I found the details of the report well presented but not what the public needs to know. I would suggest that the public’s questions might include:
    1. the fee increase is on top of a previous fee increase. Should we expect this rate of increase to continue?
    2. Shouldn’t the impact fee fully cover the needed additions and improvements caused by additional users?
    3. Will these added fees make any difference in the water quality?
    4. How does Palm Coast compare with comparable communities’ fees, quality of service, etc?
    5. Are there any state requirements? How do we compare?
    6. Is it true that raw sewage is pumped into the canals when we have demands that exceed existing capacity? What is being done to change this?
    This is one of the essential services of the community leadership, as Councilman Huff noted. We need to know the quality questions as well as the quantity questions.
    Paul C. Pritchard

  4. atilla says:

    If it was up to the citizens over the years we would be going to a community well to fetch our water. Adams and the water department doesn’t need our help. They’ve been doing a great job all by themselves.

  5. Lnzc says:

    Only 2 of us ,over 75 and our bill $74.00 and more every month
    Pity the families of 5

  6. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Tax and Spend Republicans! All Republicans on the city council. I attended today’s city council meeting on the budget. They all agreed (Heidi Shipley was not in attendance) they would just love to raise our taxes. Citizens of Palm Coast…we already pay higher costs for water and sewage than most cities similar in size. There was no rational explanation for why.

    We need leadership on this council. Vote for John Tipton on August 28 and Jack Howell in November. They’ll get this straightened out.

  7. Sherry says:

    Do you really want to know why the price of your vital drinking water will continue to escalate? Take a good read:

  8. Pogo says:

    @Keep voting for crooked Republicans

    Mexico will pay for your essential infrastructure – just like crooked trump’s wall.

    Maybe not:

    Trump has a $100 billion tax cut for the rich he wants to enact without Congress
    It’s not clear whether it’s actually legal.

    By Emily Stewart

    “Soon after Donald Trump was elected, he was filmed strolling into a swanky New York City restaurant and telling fellow patrons, “We’ll get your taxes down — don’t worry.” And he’s sticking to it. After already signing a tax bill that disproportionately benefits corporations and the wealthy, Trump’s administration is reportedly contemplating a unilateral move that would cut taxes, mainly for rich people, by $100 billion.

    Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley at the New York Times reported late Monday that the administration is considering bypassing Congress and attempting to cut capital gains taxes, a maneuver that is legally tenuous but, if undertaken, would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy…”
    Link to full article

    Rev trump says make the rich richer – maga – suckas!

  9. FlaglerRedo says:

    We’re well beyond that average in Flagler Beach.

  10. Fee says:

    Is the city actually going to do something with the money from this increase? Like say digging out the swails so water actually moves and doesn’t sit there for an eternity. Offering homeowners a whole-home filtration system? Putting it into a coffer for sidewalks? Surely it will go toward something other than tucked away in someone’s pocket.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Do anyone here know that just a water sewer connection to a new built home of only 1750 square feet cost $8,300 and depending the location? Just the connection! Then where all those funds are accounted for in our city utility financials?

  12. Agkistrodon says:

    Trump, Trump, Trump…..The current President has Zero to do with your water bill.

  13. Anonymous says:

    st augustine-average water bill for a household of 2-30 bucks! palm coast can kiss my white ars

  14. John Brady says:

    Just so you know, there will be a property tax increase since the new suggested trim rate will be 4.7 up from 4.4.. Also the presentation suggested 47 million more debt.

    The Council was given a presentation on “The Whiteview Parkway Improvement Project”. When first presented the cost was in the ” neighborhood” of one million but now maybe 1.6. Again Maestro Landon convinced the group it was a safety issue but there was no checking with the sheriff. Leave the 4 lanes in place

    This is a letter to the editor of another news organization.

    The Palm Coast City Council is considering narrowing Whiteview Parkway from the existing two lanes in each direction from Pritchard Drive to US Route 1 to one lane in each direction. This is an example of how virtuoso Landon plays City Council. What is being discussed is how to do the project and not whether to do the project. When I was writing a Decision Analysis for Department of Public Welfare in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I was reminded that doing nothing was always an option. Apparently, that is not an option in this matter and not an option in other decisions coming before the Council.

    Reducing the two lanes in each direction will result in 4 intersections having stop signs to control entering only one lane onto Whiteview Parkway. Observing the way people currently obey stop signs, causes me to think there will be more accidents. Automobile currently travelling east to west or west to east currently have a lane to swerve to if someone blows a stop sign. If the change is implemented, that option is not available.

    If there is an increase in accidents will a future City Council need to decide going back to two lanes in each direction?

    Another reason to do nothing is the cost reported to be in the “neighborhood” of one million. What happens if the project goes forward and is half completed and we have moved out of the “neighborhood”?

    A final consideration is the growth our community is experiencing. We all can see new houses going up everywhere and as we know each new home brings at least one vehicle. This being the case, why would you want to reduce traffic flow on a major east/west artery?

    City Council needs to think this through and say no to the City Manager and save in the “neighborhood” of one million.

    Perhaps City Council should consider a plan that would not be permanent and would allow a return to the existing traffic pattern without great expense. What could be done is to close off the south side lanes to vehicle traiff by placing barriers at both ends. These lanes could be the walking and bike paths. The existing north side lanes would be divided by “Jersey barriers” and open for vehicle traffic.
    This solution would achieve the same outcome at far less costs and allow a return to the existing traffic patterns should that need arise.

    City Council should be concerned about the maintaining and improving the current infrastructure. Here are some things that need attention that I am aware of those axle breaking wash outs at certain intersections, walking path repairs(St. Joe’s walkway by river), culvert wash out on Wynnfield, swale maintenance, sidewalks where there is high number of walkers and bikers. City Council fix what is broken.

  15. Bunnell boy says:

    That’s cheap compared to Bunnell, 2000 gallons will run you 100.00 and you still have to buy bottled water to drink!

  16. woodchuck says:

    The residents don’t need fresh water!We need a new community center,large letters over interstate 95,a ridiculous size city hall,a giant complex(that got put on hold for now) and a dozen other “studies”for stupid crap.

  17. David S says:

    Another B.S. way of wasting our tax dollars. Ours is currently $100 for 2 of us….

  18. tulip says:

    The BASE rate even if you don’t use one drop of water is Water base=$16.11
    Sewer base=$15.81
    Total =$31.92
    Then add in your ACTUAL water and sewer usage to that total.

    The other two things on the bill is Trash pickup (solid waste) and Stormwater. All these things are the sum total of your monthly bill. So you can’t count stormwater and solid waste as part of water usage bill. There are two us in our home and, our actual water bill part is only 20.22 plus 31.92 or 52.14 a month. Summer a tad higher, winter a tad lower.

    While I’m not for raising prices, Palm Coast is growing and the more people that move in the more utility usage there is and expansion is needed to accommodate them. Sort of like a house that comfortably holds 4 people. Have 4 more people move in and bills go up and extra rooms have to be added to house the extra people.

    All this being written and said about the wate

  19. John says:

    What a joke

  20. mark101 says:

    Just continued examples of the fleecing of Palm Cost citizens by the county government. You have the power with your votes. Remove all that are proposing this.

  21. Stretchem says:

    Gotta say, this is a funny little town. Seems weekly there’s some sort of drama or rate increase. I suspect wages in Palm Coast aren’t commensurate.

    Ye all should be thankful for FlaglerLive being on top of it all!

  22. Mantanza Woods says:

    Still waiting on the ditches to be graded! it’s been 1 yr. I have called and called they say sorry maybe the next few months! This is hurricane season, my neighborhood was a horror show last year and it’s not even a flood zone area. Water covered streets and 3 feet from the door. I live 2 lots away from the drainage canal the water doesn’t make it past my driveway now with all the rain I have a pond. How bout some attention in the neighborhoods, flowers are nice in the medians but, water in my house is unacceptable! please re-evaluate appropriate use of funds before you ask us to pay a higher bill that we get nothing from already. This is getting worse and worse with every rainy day.

  23. Jack (No Tax Jack) Howell says:

    Well, looks like the Palm Coast City Council is leaning towards significant tax increases for next year. When I’m elected to City Council I will have to educate them about cost cutting. They will learn a few new words such as accountability, responsibility and repeal! In the case of Jim Landon, a new word will also be introduced…”your fired”!

  24. Nancy N. says:

    And what happens when inflation goes through the roof from the Trump tax cut? It’ll be a lot more than 20% increase then!

  25. Agkistrodon says:

    Perhaps Palm Coast could start a bottled water company. They could bottle the water that bubbles up from the storm drains when it rains or the water that sits in the yards from the clogged storm drains. Water use includes disposal and you have failed to maintain the methods of removal. You’re lucky now, there is enough frogs to keep the mosquitoes in check, the frogs must be part of the “new” mosquito control program. But hey the town keeps the weeds out of the median flower beds so, we know the money is being spent wisely………

  26. RCH says:

    My monthly bill is already startling even when the water is turned off at the meter and the house is unoccupied for six months. I don’t fight tax increases, but this one gets to me.

  27. John Dolan esq. says:

    Palm Coast has the second highest water rates in the State. How much more can people pay? We already pay 105.00 per month for 2. On fixed incomes this is too much of a percentage of our income to pay for a necessity. We are drowing in bills.

  28. tulip says:

    To John Dolan esq. You said your bill is $105 for 2 people. Is that the amount of your ENTIRE utility bill or just the water/sewer base and actual water/sewage usage. I ask that because the water/sewage BASE amount is $31.92 a month plus my water/sewage usage which brings my water bill to about 52.00a month so that would make your actual water usage costing you about $70 a month, according to what you say. Do have a pool that needs water replacement from time to time or a garden tub which uses mega gallons or an irrigation system that uses city water? We are a household of 2 and use approximately 3000 gallons a month and we don’t skimp on the water usage. two showers a day, laundry, hand watering of plants and assorted miscellaneous uses of water during the day. Some people are looking at the amount of the total utility bill which includes 20.36 for trash pickup, plus stormwater fee.

  29. Tim T says:

    I have been paying over $100 a month regardless, even if I’m out of town for 3 weeks at a time and no one is home. There is something strange going on with the water bills in this town and now they want to raise it by 20%? Someone should investigate where the money is going

  30. Anonymous says:

    My bill is 120.00 a month me and my 11 year old son!! So not sure where they get there numbers, the water is nasty tasting and yellow!! I really feel sorry for the elderly that live in Palm Coast

  31. Anonymous says:

    It’s time for forensic audit. It is way past due for this audit and Landon can soon be leaving and getting off the cities payroll but that doesn’t excuse what has transpired on his clock. More of Jo Netts, Milissa Holland, Cuff, Klufus and a few others will only get us this kind of tax increases…….vote these incumbents out of office and get some new blood in there that is not holding hands with Chiumento and others.

  32. Agkistrodon says:

    @Tim T, they use all that money to keep the median flower beds weed free, and the street lights burning in town Center, where no one lives……….

  33. tulip says:

    So Anonymous you are saying that your monthly bill total is $120 a month for water plus another 20 for trash and another 11.65 for stormwater? That would bring your total bill to a little over $150.00! Yikes!
    How many gallons of water do you you use a month? Only count water USAGE, not sewer. If your water bill is really that high, I’d be looking for ways to conserve a bit, or check for water leaks. I don’t know where you live, but I live in Pine Lakes and the water is fine. I’ve heard people complain before about the water in various places and I don’t understand why it would be as it all comes from the aquafir and goes through the same treatment process.

  34. december says:

    We to live in Pine Lakes, water bill (water, sewer, swale and trash) runs about $84, water usage for July was $10.55 for 2420 gal., base rate $16.11 for having city water which means we pay $6.00 +/- more for base rate that what we used, same with sewage $9.92 for usage and $15.81 for the service. Installed well for irrigation shortly after we moved here and found out what is would case just for the meter whether we used irrigation or not, haven’t used it this year enough standing water in backyard and swale to call our property, water front, don’t go out in morning/evening the mosquitoes will carry you away.
    Oh someone mentioned water is yellow has an off smell, ours does as well, called the city answer was “everyone’s water is yellow, its the chemicals but its safe to drink”. Mostly drink bottled water but find if I fill a pitcher put it in fridge for a bit both the smell and the color dissipates.

  35. SurferBoy says:

    And people move to Florida because it’s supposed to be cheaper? Definitely need to start raising wages in Florida just so people can afford the basics.

  36. Salvatore says:

    Thank you Paul c.Pritchard for publicizing the very questions I’ve always wondered but can’t believe are seemingly always absent. It’s just like when budget cuts are passionately discussed. Everyone distracted by which services are more important. Nobody”stops the bus” to demand the questions of:how was money previously spent? How was the money previously wasted? How was the money previously saved? Are all the expenses reasonable and justifiable? Any ways to get more bang for the buck in any circumstances? Any progress in minimizing monetary waste? How do other government agencies do worse/ better I this country and others? What value is the public benefiting? Does the value/ quality fluctuate or remain stable? Under which circumstances are there deviations? When ultimate decisions are made, would the costs be acceptable just as if coming out of own pocket or would there be the apathetic attitude of “Hey, it’s not my money, who cares?!!!”

  37. Salvatore says:

    Tulip while palm coast may “be growing”, that’s what the impact fees were supposedly charged for. As for infrastructure needing improvement, that’s what all previous fee increases upon fee increases were supposedly also charged for. Question is how were all funds collected properly and improperly utilized?(Yes, pun intended). Any room for improvement of judicious spending? What is the ratio of public benefit value for increased additional fees involuntarily paid into the decaying water system???

  38. Paul C Pritchard says:

    We are on the same page, but the page isn’t there.
    Hopefully others will ask for this info, not just pages of numbers that “numb” to overwhelm the public.

  39. Matt 78 says:

    Why is there a “Base Rate” for water here. I would like to pay for what I use, and not pay for a “Base Rate.”
    I lived in Winter Park before moving here, got quite used to a 30 dollar water bill :)

  40. Billrp t says:

    Just like a balloon getting bigger and bigger with air, soon it will explode, the gettos are coming to palm coast as we speak, time to move out!

  41. Noah says:

    It looks to me, by the high tax increases proposed, as if this might be a fine time to sell and leave Flagler county..

  42. Noah says:

    Humongous tax increase and exactly what are the salaries of those who are leading this stealing?

  43. DoTheRightThing says:

    I betcha none of you would be complaining if you were in Haiti right now carrying your water in a bowl on the top of your head from a dirty canal. I do agree that the spending is getting out of control, Landon was just one of our problems. Sure we love our community to look beautiful and most of us take care of our property. But deliberatly not taking care of our water drainage problem is intentional if you ask me. It all comes down to corruption and not doing the right thing. If the council made a reasonable salary and learned how to budget their own homestead they would not need $250 plus thousand a year. Grow up and do the right thing for your county.

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