During the City of Palm Coast Workshop meeting, November 4th, 2023, the City Council heard a presentation on the Utility Rate Study. The representative from the third party company who conducted the study recommended a rate increase of either 6% in April of 2024, and again in October of 2024, as well as a 6% increase in October of 2025; or a 12.5% increase in October of 2024 and a 6% increase in 2025 for residents.
The presentation started off with Utilities director Flanagan providing an overview of the Utilities department and the needs it has moving forward in order to keep up with the growth, new developments, as well as touching on the fact that unlike other areas of Florida, the quality of water our city starts off with is a lower quality than in other areas. He stated that Palm Coast has to work harder than other municipalities like Deland for instance, because our initial water quality is lower.
Upon finishing the overview of the Utilities department, the presentation shifted to discuss the what the rate study covered and how they determined what the rate increase should be. As the rate study presentation continued it was stated that there is a need for a substantial rate increase now in order to ensure the Utilities department doesn’t fall behind. It was at this point that Danko stopped the presentation and asked if the presentation was accurate when it proposed a 24% increase over the next four years. Presenting staff told him it was an 18% increase over 3 years. It was here that Danko stated he was not sure he wants to increase rates as soon as April of 2024, when we don’t know how the economy will play out.
The last time a rate analysis was done was in 2017, and none of the staff had the numbers for the actual rate increase on hand.
The presentation continued by stating that the suggestion was to put the rate increase on the volume charges only, leaving the fixed rate charges to be unchanged. These changes would net a bill increase of 5-10 dollars, as stated by the presenter. The presenter also noted that the average utility bill in Palm Coast is roughly $71. Flanagan stated that by putting the rate increase on the volume charges it will help incentive those with higher water usage to conserve their water more, often by not using potable water to irrigate with.
During the presentation, it was stated that the Capacity fees, more commonly known as utility impact fees, would also be going up. According to the presentation, those fees wouldn’t be going up until 2025. Pontieri and Klufas both inquired as to why the rates would change for the residents before the rates would change for the developers and builders. Pontieri also wanted to know about raising the impact fees 50% or more, to which it was stated they would need to look into the legality of that. Pontieri, Danko and Klufas all agreed that they were hesitant to raise the rates so significantly to the residents. Pontieri wants to see another scenario where the impact fees are at 50% or higher and if that would allow for lower rate increases for residents.
This was a workshop item, so there was no vote on the matter and nothing has been passed or put into stone. They are still collecting information for the council as stated above, with developers seeing more of the raises vs the residents.