It’s a one-two punch Palm Coast homeowners and businesses will start seeing in their utility bills in a few weeks, and that will accumulate gradually but steeply over the next few years, reflecting the largest combined water, sewer and stormwater rate increases in the city’s history.
Last week the Palm Coast City Council approved a 21 percent rate increase for the city’s water and sewer customers over the next four years, starting next month. By 2022, the average homeowner will pay $163 a year more for water and sewer than today’s average, with average monthly bills going from $65.76 to $79.36. By 2024, that cost is expected to be $84.
Next week, the council is expected to approve increases to property owners’ stormwater rates that will more than double by 2024, from the current $11.65 a month to to $23.95 a month, or an increase of $147 for the year. Residents annual stormwater bill will be $287.
By then, Palm Coast homeowners will be paying around $30 a month (or $360 a year) more in water, sewer and stormwater fees as the average monthly combined water, sewer and stormwater bill will go from the current $77.41 to $108. That’s assuming current inflation rates stay modest (both stormwater and water and sewer bills will be indexed to inflation.)
That’s also assuming the $26.30-a-month garbage rate, which is added to the bill, does not increase, an assumption unlikely to hold true: Garbage rates went up 9 percent in 2017. The current contract with Waste Pro expires in 2022. Garbage rates went up 9 percent in 2017.
Put another way: the $360 increase alone in the combined utility bill will be more than what a homeowner with a $125,000 house–with a $50,000 exemption–currently pays in Palm Coast property taxes ($344).
The saving grace: the increases will be a low-simmer singe spread over six years, though the stormwater fee is set to jump 33 percent in a few weeks, then settle down to smaller annual increases after that.
By 2024 the combined utility bill’s annual increase alone will be more than what some homeowners pay in Palm Coast taxes.
Most property owners must pay Stormwater fees. Exceptions, which are increasing, include those properties or developments that have their own stormwater systems, such as Grand Haven. Some have hybrid systems, partially maintained by the city and partially maintained privately.
Since stormwater charges are “fees,” the charge is kept off homeowners’ tax bills and charged instead on their utility bills, though the council has the option of funding the stormwater system by other means–through the property tax, for example, or by instituting an electric utility tax. The utility tax was discussed a few years ago but ran into staunch public opposition. The distinction between taxes and fees helps politicians claim that they’re keeping taxes law. But for most property owners there’s little distinction between a tax and a fee.
The last time the council approved a stormwater fee increase was in 2012, when fees jumped 46 percent–from $8 a month to the current $11.65. But the council did not approve indexing the fee to inflation, or to reflect any increase in annual operating costs, as is the case with the water and sewer bill. “That is one of the reasons why our costs are going up but the fees are staying the same,” Landon said. Indexing would not start until 2025.
The council has been contending with water, sewer and stormwater fee increases for the past several weeks, and discussing the stormwater increase over two successive workshops, the last one on Tuesday, ahead of next week’s rate-increase approval, though it started considering an increase two years ago.
Palm Coast has big needs to modernize its stormwater system, an infrastructure is far more intricate and varied than swales (though 1,222 miles of swales is no small thing). It includes pipes, 31 major water control structures, 13 lakes, retention and detention ponds and canals, and 154 miles of ditches, among other critical underpinnings, all of which requires maintenance or upgrades. The city’s 51-mile freshwater canal system needs dredging for the first time in the city’s history. The city is planning a 12-year dredging program that will cost millions. It also has 26 miles of saltwater canals.
Earlier this month the city’s consultants returned with proposals to the council that seemed too costly. They were asked to revise their approach. They did so to “level out the rates a little better and hopefully still have an accelerated plan,” City Manager Jim Landon said, describing the updated plan as “more realistic.”
The plan adds up to collecting $75 million in revenue, 54 percent of it from stormwater fees, 46 percent of it from new debt. Residential property owners with the usual quarter-acre lot size will pay a monthly stormwater fee of $15.55 starting in a few weeks, up from the current $11.65. The $3.90 increase will be the steepest. After that, the fee will increase $1.68 every year, and after 2024, it will be indexed to inflation, continuing to increase but at a slower rate.
The council rejected a pay-as-you go plan that would have seen monthly rates jump as high as $30 by 2024, and other options that also saw rates increase much more steeply.
The challenge now will be to explain it all to property owners who’ll be paying the bills.
Part of this needs to be a communications aspect,” Mayor Milissa Holland said. “We’ve got to really inform, inform, inform as much as possible.”
The plan hinges on a more comprehensive approach to stormwater management, though that was the rationale behind the last stormwater rate increase as well.
“Right now we’re a lot more reactionary,” Landon said. “People call and complain and we try to take care of it. We really need to get away from that and have a drainage basin and say, in that drainage basin have a schedule as to what ditches we’re going to do, what swales, and communicate that to people and actually have that schedule, that way when you get done with one drainage basin you move on to the next.” It won’t be just the drainage ditches but the entire system that would be tackled that way.
Council members Nick Klufas and Vincent Lyon were also supportive of the plan.
“If we do nothing as we are today we’re going to keep getting behind,” Holland said, “especially without the indexing being put in place for the cost of the infrastructure going up every year. But I do think this also allows and provides for us to not only accelerate the program, but do it in a way which is much more methodical or strategic in enhancing our infrastructure.”
Palm Coast’s Stormwater Cost Options and Plan (2018)
So this is largely due to poor planning by the ITT the first developer and the city of Palm Coast.. So the answer is to bill the taxpayers,. So it will be interesting if the city actually follows thru on their Projects Identified for Debt Financing to remedy the drainage issues in the next 3 years.
Bill g says
Glad i didnt guy a home here, almost did. After looking at all the crime and high rates,, sheeshhhh!
Reap reap reap says
This is exactly what you get when uninformed voters elect Democrats posing as Republicans so they can be elected. Melissa was a liberal spending Democrat until she realized she needed to pose as a republican to get into power in this county. Plain and simple.
So…will they actually come around and improve drainage and take care of all the swails? Doubtful. My street floods with a heavy downpour and then the water sits and sits and sits. If they do something, fine, but if they just increase to have an increase, well…
Yet they won’t fix the swales in front of my house. Which have already been screened and approved for grading.
They say it can take half a year to get a excavator out here. What a joke!
The rich Landon going to run. Everyone out of town
Unfortunately our utility reserve funds were wasted in the widening of Old Kings Road South, in the TC CRA also in all the infrastructure of Boulder Rock and the overpriced purchase of all those Boulder Rock private lots just to benefit the Town Center Developers. Millions and millions of our city utility water, sewer and drainage reserves for growth and development and now the reserves are gone then council and manager just raise our rates again to cover for needed funds to pay for repairs and needed upgrades. This is grossly unfair and I would say illegal to use utility reserve funds for what are not intended as our utility is not privately owned as is owned by us all and instead is run like a private enterprise unfortunately. Meanwhile they keep using our taxes for growth and developers benefits, mortgaging us all with bonds, while raising our fees and taxes.
Really fed up.
GY Presley says
Well maybe now they can figure how to get rid of the smell and taste of chlorine out of the tap water.
Hes Bankrupt as a human being
[Note: the East Flagle Mosquito Control District is it’s own government agency with its own elected board and taxing authority. It has nothing to do with Palm Coast or other local governments beyond joint agreements allowing the district to spray within city boundaries.—-FL]
I really wish the state would come in and conduct a complete forensic audit of Palm Coast, to include the Mosquito gang. I think it would bring a myriad of things to light, that a “few” don’t want known.
I guess they need more mosquito control funds……….or more flowers.
I have had my home here since 1997. This city have never graded anything correctly and I now have a back yard that floods because everyone around me is higher ground. I have a corner lot and have paid for years on end and have called and complained for years to clear the swales. The R section Is forever under water and they have never done the job I have been paying for for years. After 18 years they finally fixed rymfire. Hey that’s great but what about all the back streets that flood
What would be nice is if the taxpayers got what we payed for and those sitting in higher positions collecting big chuncky paychecks got up and actually did their jobs.
If you want to raise my fees you better give me what I pay for.
PC Citizen says
These “freaking” idiots have left my whole street flooded for 7 months. My swale is so full I call it a Lake. It runs into the street and builds up at the bottom of my driveway. The trash men WON’T pickup my trash or recycle because they don’t want to get their shoes wet. I actually had to WAIT at home until they came and walk it out to them……….I HATE THIS CITY !
Dear fellow residents taxpayers: Flaglerlive is correct Mosquito Control is a state and county tax District and overseeing by the county NOT the city of Palm Coast. What happen with them is that were convinced (probably by Coffey and company and to benefit themselves via a developer) to build a castle to themselves and buy a helicopter, not needed, as per the size of the East Mosquito Control to be served that was doing perfect with just the spraying trucks under ITT and beyond. They overused the reserves for those new built administration offices and the copter and then there was no money for the spraying and the copter seats parked for the same reason no $$ to fly it. That was the ill advise of Coffey.I would like to be investigated in depth what all our elected officials, their city and county managers and big wigs that work for them get from these developers misusing our reserves and taxes to their benefit alleging the positive of growth. Landon gave to the Unicorn developer in Orlando the corner parcel that he forced us to pay to the owner in Boulder Rock 1,300,000 then he gave to the WaWa developer Unicorn of Orlando for 800.000 in the name of all the sales taxes that will benefit “us all in a distant future if ever”. Now he turns around and raises our utility and drainage fees for those wasted reserve funds incorrectly used. They always lie to us that all these growth will benefit us in the “future” something hardly ever proven true.
Same thing with the millions wasted by quartering in sections to be spent so will no require council approval being lesser the minimum amount in the wasteful White View Parkway destruction and rebuilding all based on lies of residents “non existing” emails alleged asking for it. Now I come to learn the real reason of that waste is because they are approving a big housing development off White View Parkway and our millions used again will benefit the developer! These two City and County managers are depleting our pockets and worst of it our services that we pay and do not properly receive: overflowing sewer with every rain,caving in drainage, mosquito spraying, repaying, landscaping mowing, erasing blight by properly enforcing and or improving landscape and traffic redirecting signs along old Palm Coast main Drives like FPD and OKR and repairing the Holland Park leak into the FPD sidewalks and adjacent smelly swales. These two county and city managers outrageously sacrifice the existing residents quality of life and services in favor of developers! And they do it with the green flag of the one’s we seat to represent our needs.
don’t we already have the highest water bills in Florida?
Just like homeowners who need to spend money to maintain their property so does government. Would people rather do nothing and wait for emergency (and more expensive) repairs? I bet most of the complainers spend much more going out to eat every year.
More stellar leadership by the publisher’s puppets Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.
This has always been a slush fund for perk projects such as city hall and town center. Nothing gets voted on anymore they just do it. Don’t elect Netts back in because this will continue with the puppets running this city.
Palmcoaster hit the nail square on its head.
The utility reserve funds were used as a personal piggy bank.
And one of those involved expects to be re-elected. Yeah sure.
Reap rap…these misuse of our utilities reserves is not a new issue has been going on since 1999 that Palm Coast incorporated. Fund developers growth and Town Center developers with the utility reserves for the past almost 20 years since ITT left us. All these incorrectly funded growth taking away from the quality of life of the existing residents services, look great in the county and city managers resumes also.
PC poor planning, so now the taxpayers have to pay the price. How about lowering Jim Landon’s outrageous salary then you will not have to stick us with your poor planning errors. What are your next surprises for us?
Shutyer Pieholes says
“The city” does not grade your house lot – the contractor who built your house did that.
Just reading peoples statements here it sounds to me as though the City of PC hasn’t done a very good job with the swales and the taxpayers problems on their streets, so what are they doing with the taxpayers money? Is Jim Landon as usual just getting the benefits while the city goes down the tubes? I feel strongly that the Mayor and City Counsel needs to have the voters decide more on where and what our taxpayers money is being used for. How about if, the taxpayers revoke and don’t pay their taxes until these issues are addressed.
In ten more years this will be just like Jacksonville
John Brady says
Show up at Council meeting on Tuesday 9-18 and tell Council to hold the City Manager accountable for poor planning.In addition to the increases in fees, the plan is to borrow 43M to complete this project. Now more then ever City Council needs to know the difference between “wants” and “needs”
This Council just recently approved spending to reduce Whiteview from 2 lanes in each direction to 1 lane in each direction at a cost of in the “neighborhood” of 1.6 M
We need answers.We need new blood on Council that new blood would be Howell and Tipton
C.mon mam says
Can I at least park a boat in the driveway or a car in the swale from time to time? Give us something
Why bother building workforce and middle class housing here. Just build for the wealthy because they will be the only ones able to afford living here. I realize that infrastructure degrades and, as more people move in, at some point a larger system to accomodate them is needed and, yes it does take money to maintain and upgrade, but it just seems that the city is careless with it’s budget, prioritizes things that aren’t neccessary, don’t take care of the things that are necessary, etc. and then makes the rest of us pay. Everyone says “oh isn’t it great the minimum wage is $15.00 an hour” or $31,200 a year BEFORE taxes. Not a good salary and every time the minimum wage goes up so go the prices of everything, negating out any extra income.
If we didn’t have a thoughtless tax and spend city council, our taxes and fees would be lower due to the fact that we would have better, more thoughtout and sensible fiscal management ofthe city of palm coast budget
It feels like the city council and staff is just running slipshod over its residents,.
what a joke ……… how about the palm coast city worker that parks and sleeps? Do they deduct their pay our tax money from their hour nap………..And yes I have pics of him sleeping……
John Dolan esq. says
Everything goes up except our salaries. Thanks city government for wiping out the working class. Palm Coast now has the highest water rates in the state. Lets give all the loadstars another big pay raise.
All the more reason why a forensic audit needs to be done on the city. Some funds designated for particular expenses have been robbed to cover costs elsewhere—totally not legal! Jim Landon knew why he chose to announce his departure when he did. The commission needs to stand up and ask for a forensic audit and hold Landon and others accountable before Landon leaves his position. The council needs to all be replaced for allowing Landon to stay on board until he feels like leaving. You don’t keep people in place that don’t have the city in its best interest knowing they are on the way out the door and still on the payroll. This is a dysfunctional city and Mayor Holland sucks as a leader and needs to go!
Concerned Citizen says
Hey folks please remember this at election time.
Our council keeps doing stuff like this because we allow them to. They get into office and think they are untouchable.
It’s our job as citizens during an election year to remind them otherwise. Get out there and vote.
I am a 80 year old single male with a 1200 sq ft house and have a well for sprinkling then lawn and my monthly utility bill is already $84 a month so who is Landon kidding ????
Why are we having Palm trees in the mediums and irrigation new Signs that say Seminole woods and other wasted money. These clowns need to go.
Jack (No Tax Jack) Howell says
This is one of the primary reasons that I am running for City Council. This rubber stamp approval process on Jim Landon’s say-so is an egregious breach of our trust and confidence by these puppet council members and the Mayor. If Jon Netts is elected to city council, it will be more of the same backroom conniving. You, dear reader and I know that a zebra cannot change their stripes. Need I say more?
Someone should tell these clowns that water runs down hill. They did the swales in front of my home three times and it is still like a lake. They piss away hundreds of thousands on unnecessary plantings that they are unable to maintain. They can’t keep up with cutting the grass and weeding the planting beds. They just finished a planting bed by European Village and it is filled with weeds. Who is incharge of this expensive circuis act??
No period! They can’t get rid of the preggers on the street corner but they can raise our taxes!
Jack Howell we have our votes and when you will be elected please first thing to do is put a break on city council and manager regarding waste….1) please be the first to demand, ask and oppose any new development approval before the manager and the departmental administrators shows you how much in serving infrastructure utility water “sewer and drainage”, road and other services the developers impact fees are funding if any. You maybe shocked. Then ask them also how much the new development will cost the existing taxpayers and were those funds will be coming from (maybe from the operating account to hide by the real cost?) and do not let them tell you lies ask for documents and figures. Examples like this Cooper dog suit that takes thousands of our tax dollars just to become executioners of this dog other than let it go to the Rotwheiller’s Ranch away from here. How come to my surprise learned that the dog owned by councilman Klufas relatives that shredded to death that innocent Yorkie in front of his owner that also within 15 days died of a heart attack over the grief was not ordered euthanized (which also would be unfair as was the owners fault) if true belongs to Klufas relative. Yes here and there our utilities need repair and replacement but wasting its reserves for what not intended to benefit developers is what generates these increases on us all. Unfortunately we have good people working like they were under ITT including its Director Richard Adams and his workers but they have to do and abide by what the council and manager commands. So Jack prepare your suit of armor with questions in those meetings.
@ palmcoaster says:
September 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm
Unfortunately our utility reserve funds were wasted in the widening of Old Kings Road South, in the TC CRA also in all the infrastructure of Boulder Rock and the overpriced purchase of all those Boulder Rock private lots just to benefit the Town Center Developers????????
What are you talking about???? Boulder Rock is not withing town center???
The Flagler County Board of County Commission has been having it’s board members voted out of office for not providing representation we are deserving of, so the same needs to take place here in the city of Palm Coast. Putting Holland in the position of Mayor is the worse move we voters ever could have done! We need to vote in new blood and get rid of every sitting council member and the mayor as their terms come up for reelection. If Mayor Holland had any sense and was qualified to do the job she would have been more involved and determined why the city is in this position and she would have suggested a forensic audit to get the monkey off her back and that of the current board. This city needs a forensic audit and they need to get rid of Jim Landon before this area turns into a slum!
Jack Howell says
When you get a moment, please call me 386-569-5685. I want to hear your ideas because I will need all of the publics help to unscrew the situation. I want the city council to learn a new word…..repeal!
Jack Howell says
The forensic audit is been a key component of my campaign for city council. If elected, that is one of my highest priorities. I am all about accountability. The Landon crew is good at pulling the wool over our eyes or so he thinks!
I been busy till late today “helping others” when I can, my motto. But will call you Saturday and hope to get one of your sings also for my lawn soon.
What I am talking about, Bill..? Yes everything done around around Town Center from Belle Terre beautification to Old Kings Road widening , landscape and now maintenance was to benefit Town Center….including the overpriced private properties bought in Boulder Rock that were given away at least 2 parcels so far to the Wawa developer Unicorn of Orlando for 800,000 when we were forced to pay 1,300,000. As will benefit us all for the sake of the sales tax that will be generated by WAWA, Oh Yeah I may not be alive to see that benefit but sure smell the sewer on rainy days.
IT IS TIME TO FIND ADEQUATE FUNDS SO THIS CONSTRUCTION CAN BE FREE LIKE THE CITY HALL AND COMMUNITY CENTER WERE. COME ON FOLKS……..KEEP LOOKING IN DRAWERS AND FILING CABINETS>
Budget Family says
We already go #1 outside, maybe #2 is next!