The Oviedo City Council approved a 5.3% increase in water, sewer and reclaimed water rates for residents on Tuesday night, marking the first time the city has increased the rate by more than 3%.
Inflation, labor shortages, material cost increases and supply chain issues all contributed to the increase, according to the city. For example, there has been a 60 percent increase in the cost of the chemicals the city uses to treat its water. Another example: because one type of chemical was not available, the city’s water treatment plant needed to be staffed for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three weeks in December to conduct hourly sampling. This meant overtime pay costs for the city.
“We are not different from anyone else. Inflation is across the board,” said Councilman Keith Britton. “This is the way we have to maintain our services and operations so I don’t know if there’s anything else we can do besides this.”
The rate is typically automatically adjusted based on inflation and does not need approval from City Council unless it goes above 5%. On Tuesday the Council also erased that 5% cap so that the city does not have to seek Council’s approval for an increase no matter the amount, so long as it aligns with the rate of inflation.
During a Jan. 10 work session with the Council, the city’s finance director, Jerry Boop, said the city has “more than likely been undercharging” for water because the city has not done a rate study since 2012. City policy calls for such a study to be done every five years.
The study would show the exact cost of providing the utility service to the city and what additional revenues it may or may not need. It would also let the city know how much revenue each customer tier brings in and where that money goes.
Boop told the Council that he is unsure when a study could be performed because of understaffing in the finance department. City staffing numbers have dropped in recent years. In 2007, the city had nine full-time employees per 1,000 residents compared to seven per 1,000 today.
“We are committed to doing it,” Boop said during the work session meeting, but added, “we are at our apex of what we can possibly accomplish in the finance department.”
New base rate charges
- Old rate: $13.17
- New rate: $13.87
- Old rate: $27.20
- New rate: $28.65
Reclaimed water rates
- Old rate: $12.07
- New rate: $12.70
New usage fees
The usage fees on top of the base rate vary from household to household. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average monthly water bill is $83. The average American household uses about 82 gallons of water a day or about 2,460 gallons a month.
The new usage rates are as follows:
Water rates per 3,000 gallons
- Old rate: $1.09
- New rate: $1.15
Sewer rates per 1,000 gallons
- Old rate: $4.92
- New rate: $5.26
Reclaimed water rates for 0-15,000 gallons
- Old rate: $1.44
- New rate: $1.52
See the charts below (courtesy of the City of Oviedo) to find more specifics on the new rates.