REDINGTON SHORES — Residents could be seeing a change in their utility bills, beginning later this year.
The Town Commission reached a consensus at its Aug. 26 workshop to switch from a fixed sewer rate charge to a rate based partly on usage.
The change to a usage-based rate was recommended by the town’s Financial Advisory Committee. Chairperson Kirby Howell said the county bills the town based on the amount of sewage they process.
“The more sewage that we use, the bill from the county goes up,” Howell said. “But our ability to pay for it doesn’t, because our revenues are fixed.”
Now, the sewer charge to residents is $27.29 per month for their home, which assumes one bathroom. There is an extra charge of $6 a month for each additional bathroom. So, residents pay the same amount every time they get a bill.
With the current fixed rate, “it makes no difference how much sewage is used, and that is the issue we are trying to address,” Howell said.
The proposed usage-based rate follows the county billing method, Howell said. The $27.29 charge would drop to $16.38 per unit per month. There would be an additional charge for actual sewer usage of $5.98 per 1,000 gallons.
Residents will see modest changes to their utility bill under the new plan. Those with one bathroom will see an average increase of about $4 on their monthly sewer bill. The bills for those with two bathrooms will be about the same. And those with three or more bathrooms may save about $3 a month, and condo residents about $4.50, according to an analysis from the Financial Advisory Committee provided by Howell.
If the usage-based sewer billing plan is adopted, Howell said the revenue received would be about the same as before, around $945,000 per year. The intent is not to make money or lose money, Howell said, but to switch to a rate structure that covers the costs. When the actual sewer usage goes up, the town pays more to the county for sewage processing, and now the town will get more revenue from the residents to cover that increased cost.
Also, since the usage-based billing method to residents is very similar to that used by the county, if the town decides to sell the sewer system to the county, “the transition for our residents would be seamless,” Howard said.
Commission members liked the switch to a rate that is partially based on usage, rather than the flat fee of the past.
“I agree with this. The more you use, the more you should be billed,” said Commissioner Pat Drumm.
Commissioners Jeff Neal and Michael Robinson also said they agreed. The consensus of the whole commission was to go forward with voting on the issue at the September regular meeting.
Chris Cook, a resident of Redington Towers condos said, “I agree totally with going to a usage-based system.”
Residents may pay more for beach parking
“Free” parking for residents in the old Town Hall lot, which many use as a beach access, could become more costly. The lot, at 178th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, is a block from the beach.
The commission discussed replacing the hang tags that residents can purchase each year for $3 that allow them to park in the metered lot at no charge, with a sticker costing $50 per year.
The move hopefully will free up spaces in the lot which nearby businesses say is full much of the time. Mayor Mary Beth Henderson said other beach communities have stickers for residents and charge similar fees. She mentioned Treasure Island charges $45 or $50 for an annual decal, and they allow one per address.
The hang tags can be easily passed around and given to relatives and other nonresidents to use when going to the beach, Robinson said.
“Stickers would be more costly so fewer would likely be purchased, and can be used on only one vehicle,” he said.
Another cause for the lot being full is the meter parking fee is sometimes being ignored. Henderson said she has seen people park who do not have hang tags and go across the street to businesses without paying.
Police Capt. Glen Smith said if the sticker plan is approved, the police could begin issuing warnings for people without stickers who are not paying the parking fee, then follow with citations after a month or so of issuing warnings.
The parking issue is scheduled to be on the agenda for a vote at the September meeting.