Largo Commission Votes to Maintain Utility Surcharges for Non-residents
LARGO - On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners adopted a Legislative Package that included resolutions urging the state legislature to prohibit municipal utilities from assessing a surcharge to consumers outside municipal limits or, in the alternative, require that municipalities assess the same rate to in-city and out-of-city water or sewer utility consumers.
The Miami-Dade County Commission argued the surcharge constitutes an “unfair tax” and states that those citizens who do not have an opportunity to be heard and vote on the matter are, in essence, paying twice for infrastructure. The Miami-Dade County Commission is actively pursuing this objective by soliciting support from the Florida Association of Counties and through lobbying efforts.
The City of Largo currently provides sewer service to numerous properties located outside its municipal limits and assesses a 25% surcharge to those consumers. This surcharge enables the city to recoup capital costs incurred by residents within the city's boundaries to pay for additional sewer projects and other economic development efforts in the city's sewer service areas that are outside the municipal boundaries. The Largo staff recommended joining the Florida League of Cities and Florida municipalities an effort to preserve municipal authority to assess water and sewer utility surcharges outside municipal corporate boundaries. The commission votes unanimously to maintain the surcharge authority.
Florida Statutes provide that a municipality operating a water or sewer utility may charge, in addition to the rates, fees and charges assessed to consumers within municipal boundaries, an additional surcharge to those consumers located outside municipal boundaries. A municipality wishing to assess an additional surcharge to unincorporated consumers has two options available to it.
The municipality may charge an additional surcharge of up to 25% of the rate assessed to in-city consumers without holding a public hearing. In the alternative, a municipality that chooses to assess a higher surcharge may do so but it must first hold a public hearing during which all interested parties are provided an opportunity to be heard. The statute provides that a municipality may not assess a surcharge in excess of 50%.
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