LARGO — For the past several years, city staff worked on an analysis of the stormwater system.
The conclusion found that it will take roughly 20 years to address a backlog of maintenance work that will require about $5.5 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2026.
In order to pay for the infrastructure work, city commissioners gave initial approval June 21 to the first of what could become five consecutive years of rate hikes.
Commissioners voted 6-1, with Vice Mayor Michael Smith voting no, to raise the stormwater rate by 20% in FY 2023, which would cost a single-family residential customer about $21.48 more each year. The increase, if approved on second and final reading July 19, would go into effect Oct. 1.
In future years, staff is also recommending rate hikes of 20% in FY 2024 and 2025, 15% in 2026 and 8% in 2027 to support the existing operating and capital needs such as new pipe installations and repiping while also reducing the backlog of maintenance work.
In total, it means monthly rates would rise from $8.91 to $19.91 at the end of the five years.
Staff is also recommending wastewater rate increases of 10% the next two years.
Comparisons with nearby municipalities provided by staff show Largo's FY 2023 stormwater rate would fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.
In a recent visit to Washington where he attended a summit on flooding and sea level rise, Mayor Woody Brown said mayors across the country discussed the opportunities presented by the federal government’s infrastructure bill.
Upon returning, he said he talked to city administration about aggressively pursuing those funds.
“I think that if we get millions of dollars in federal money to help us this year we can maybe push that out or make that number (the rate hike) a lot smaller,” he said.
Meridy Semones, director of the Office of Performance & Budget, said the first round of federal money was for larger projects that the city didn’t qualify for.
However, she said staff are ready to pursue future grant funds as future rounds are released.