Miami-Dade County raised its water and sewer fees for most residential customers last year by 8 percent. But that was only the beginning of at least five years of projected increases to help fund $1.6 billion in federally mandated pipe repairs.
The water and sewer department has proposed a 6 percent hike for the upcoming year, which begins Oct. 1. Early budget projections show subsequent hikes of 6 percent, 5 percent and 5 percent for the following three years.
Taken together, the increases would amount to bills rising 30 percent over a five-year period — on top of a 31 percent increase from 2006 to 2011. Fees remained flat in 2012 and 2013.
For an average user consuming 6,750 gallons of water a month, next year’s monthly bill would go up to $48.11 from $45.39. That’s an increase of $2.72 — but a $17.13 increase from 2006, when the average monthly bill was $30.98. By 2018, it’s projected to be $56.23.
The proposed hike for this year and projected increases beyond that — all of which would require county commissioners’ approval — could change depending on customers’ consumption and other variables. For example, last year’s increase had initially been projected at 9 percent but was actually a percentage point lower.
But commissioners have acknowledged that they need the politically unpopular fee hikes to fix deteriorated sewer pipes and pump stations that the feds say have been violating pollution laws. Last year’s increase alone was expected to bring in $30 million to back $4.25 billion in new bonds. (The rate remained the same for low-volume users who consume less than 3,740 gallons of water a month.)
Despite the increase, as of last year Miami-Dade’s fees remained among the lowest in the state. A county analysis showed fees in other large urban areas — including Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Jacksonville — charged more.
This post is part of Dade Data, a new online series from the Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data will explore the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government and the challenges it faces.