The Pinellas county government proposes an $8.65 million hike in annual water, reclaimed water and sewer fees. This will effect a large majority of residents of Pinellas County. But why do they need the money? It turns out they don’t. An evaluation of the budgets of the water and sewer department reveals they have a total of $82.82 million stashed in bank accounts (pages a-59 to a-66). Thus they have 52% of their total annual revenues in the bank. Do you, the average utility user of Pinellas County, have 52% of your total income stashed in a bank account?
Say NO MORE WATER AND SEWER RATE HIKES!
Pinellas county government Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.
Pinellas County Courthouse, 5th floor Assembly Room, 315 Court Street, Clearwater
Further analysis reveals that the amount of money in reserves is well over the standard required for Pinellas County overall. The Pinellas County government requires 15% of its annual budget to be in reserves. The water and sewer department have 46% of their annual expenditures in reserves. In addition, they are required to keep some funds in reserves to cover debts, to ensure a sound bond rating. The state requires a 1.25x debt service coverage amount. The departments have set it higher, at 1.5x but the actual amounts they have are 2.18 x for sewer and 3.0 x for water. So why would they need and additional $8.65 million per year? The numbers don’t add up.
Finally, the water and sewer department are wanting to provide a 4.3% annual increase in staff costs between now and 2024. Why should the county staffers get raises above the rate of inflation (the county projects about a 2% rate of inflation)? Why should they get raises over that of average citizens (the county indicates that the rate of predicted citizen wage growth is 1.3-2.7%). The county water and sewer department continue to give more generous salary and benefit packages to government workers than the citizens enjoy. Meanwhile the citizens must pay unneeded, higher sewer and water rates while their income grows at half the rate of government workers (if it grows at all!). Something is not right with this picture.
If you want to stop a 7-30% increase in water rate hikes and 3% hike in sewer rates, go to the Pinellas County Commission meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday 5/19 at 315 Court Street (5th floor assembly room). Tell them to cut water and sewer rates, not raise them. Tell them to cut their overall spending.