North Miami - NMB

North Miami Beach may increase water fees by 9.5 percent

Water rates for North Miami Beach water customers should increase by 9.5 percent next year, according to a preliminary rate study by the city’s Public Utilities Board.

But many small residential customers could see a slightly smaller bill, according to the city’s public utilities director, Barbara Trinka.

That’s because the city also wants to change its rate system so that the first few thousand gallons of water cost less than additional amounts. This system is already used by other water providers, including Miami-Dade County, as a way to encourage conservation.

The city, which owns and operates the Norwood-Oeffler Water Treatment Plant, provides services to approximately 32,800 metered connections in North Miami Beach, Sunny Isles, Miami Gardens, Aventura and portion of Northwest Miami-Dade. The rate hike would apply to all users, not just those in North Miami Beach.

Finance Director Janette Smith outlined the details of the preliminary 2014-15 budget proposal at a City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Smith said the rate hike was necessary for a couple of reasons.

“There was an ordinance that required a 10 percent rate increase and an inflation rate increase every year from 2007 to 2012. So a 9.5 percent rate increase doesn’t seem outrageous when you consider that the city hasn’t taken rate increases,” Smith said.

In addition, the city’s sewer department is faced with new mandates as a result of a Miami-Dade County legal agreement signed in mid-April. The consent decree, which was signed between the county, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requires that the county repair and maintain its’ deteriorating sewer system to the tune of $1.6 billion over the next 15 years. As part of the agreement, the county must meet deadlines for a slew of capital-improvement projects — some of which have already begun construction — or face fines.

Because the city buys sewage service from the county, it will be affected by the court order, Trinka said.

“The rate increase is really to offset the infrastructure improvements. We’re trying to ensure we maintain those,” said Trinka.

The city also is installing wireless devices in water meters that will help identify potential leaks in the piping system as well as allow the city to read and record water use automatically. “Our AMR [Automated Meters Project] should be up in about 14 months,” said Trinka.

A second workshop on the proposed budget 2014-2015 has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at City Hall, 17011 NE 19th Ave.

Two budget hearings are conducted for the purpose of budget adoption and setting the final millage rate. They will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 at City Hall.