South Beach water customers to get lower bills in June
Vero Beach Utilities customers who live on the south barrier island can expect a different-looking water-sewer bill to start arriving in the mail in June, bringing most some significant savings.
The Vero Beach City Council voted 5-0 last week to convert those customers to the county rate structure, which in most typical residential cases will save them some money.
For example, a single-family residential water-sewer customer with a typical 5/8-inch water meter using 3,000 gallons per month is currently paying $51.45, plus a 6 percent franchise fee to the county. That same bill would go down to $42.51, plus the county franchise fee. That’s a 17 percent decrease, which adds up to about $118 per year.
A household with the same 5/8-inch meter using 8,000 gallons of water and sewer services per month now pays $82.22, plus the county franchise fee. That bill would go down to $72, plus the county franchise fee on the Indian River County Utilities rate structure. That’s a 12 percent decrease, or more than $122 per year more in ratepayers’ pockets.
The move came after Vero rejected a plan put forth by the county to defuse an ongoing dispute over whether or not the city has the right to continue serving South Beach and mainland county ratepayers even after the county’s franchise agreement with Vero expires in March 2017.
Vero officials maintain that the rate switch is “revenue-neutral” to the city. Councilwoman Pilar Turner had been skeptical of this as she hadn’t seen any analysis that allayed her concerns, but last Tuesday night, after being supplied the numbers by city staff, she seemed on board with the concept.
“You’re going to be hearing from your high-volume users,” said Turner. “At least for our two highest water users, they’re going to see a significant increase.”
The conversion to county rates also means the elimination of the contentious 10 percent surcharge that Vero has tacked onto county customers’ bills.
Customers inside the city limits still pay and will continue to pay a 10 percent utility tax, which goes into Vero’s general fund, on both water-sewer and electric bills – a tax that theoretically they would otherwise pay in property taxes.
Come June, Vero city residents will be the only water-sewer customers who remain on city rates, and City Manager Jim O’Connor said there’s nothing in the works to change that, as it would hurt some large commercial and industrial users.