Connect with us


Aging infrastructure necessitates utility rate increases

Mark Parker



A sign warning residents of potential wastewater contamination at the site of a recent sewage spill. City officials are now fast-tracking a pipe replacement project, as part of an ongoing initiative to replace aging infrastructure. Photos by Mark Parker.

Monthly utility bills will increase by 4% to 8.5% in St. Petersburg due to aging infrastructure and inflationary costs.

City Councilmembers approved the new rates, which begin in October, at a Sept. 7 meeting. The 8.5% stormwater increase follows a 15% hike last year.

Updating archaic infrastructure is an ongoing priority, and the rate discussion followed an update on a Riviera Bay sewer project. City officials are fast-tracking a $3.5 million pipe replacement in the waterfront neighborhood after a recent force main break leaked 10,600 gallons of raw sewage into the bay.

Andrew Burnham, vice president of financial services for consulting firm Stantec, highlighted the fact that St. Petersburg’s utility rates are higher than many neighboring municipalities. However, he credited local leaders for taking a measured, proactive approach and said other cities would soon see significant increases.

“It may be cheaper right now on their bills, but their day of reckoning is coming,” said Councilmember Gina Driscoll. “They (the City of Tampa) are going to be in a pretty precarious boat when it is time for them to really face what we’ve already taken head-on to upgrade and repair our infrastructure …”

A graphic showing how St. Petersburg’s utility rates compared to other cities and counties before the increase. Screengrab.

Monthly utility bills will increase by $5 to $12, depending on lot size and water usage. Angela Miller, senior public works manager, said the average family of four uses about 3,500 gallons of water monthly.

Their total bill would rise from $164.40 to $174.52, according to city documents. Miller said public works officials now include 20-year forecasts when determining rates.

Maintaining an even cash-to-debt ratio is also “a huge goal.” Burnham said the department runs like a private business and remains conscious of expenditure requirements.

He explained that Pinellas County waste disposal fees, now at 6.8% for St. Pete, will continue increasing. However, over half of residents’ utility bills – around $58 – go to wastewater services.

Burnham said St. Pete’s “aggressive” tiered rate system to promote conservation leads to higher average water bills than the county’s flat-rate program. He also noted that the city is nearly a decade into updating infrastructure master plans.

“I do expect, when you look at this a few years from now, you’re going to see a lot of these bills be very comparable in cost,” Burnham said.

Impact fees

As Councilmember Ed Montanari noted, many residents have voiced concerns over developers paying their fair share of increasing infrastructure costs. The area continues to experience exponential growth, and Miller said it costs about $1,000 to accommodate each new bathroom.

However, the city’s water closet – or impact – fees only cover about 35% of that cost. Councilmember Brandi Gabbard, who represents the Riviera Bay neighborhood, asked administrators to increase those rates by 12.5% annually until they achieve an equilibrium.

A graphic showing how St. Petersburg’s wastewater impact fees compare to other cities.

While residents pay higher comparable utility rates, its $350 wastewater impact fee is among the region’s lowest. Burnham said city officials “have a wide latitude” on how they could increase those fees to meet the $1,000 cost.

After remaining stagnant for several years, impact fees will rise to $393.75 in October.

“The residents who live here now, they’ve been paying a lot of money for capital costs,” Montanari said. “I want to be sensitive to developers, but we also need to be fair when it comes to paying for our infrastructure.”

In a previous interview, Claude Tankersley said that “to his knowledge,” the city only waives impact fees for affordable housing developments. The public works director also said his department must account for increased rainfall and sea level rise.

Tankersley, discussing the Riviera Bay project ahead of Hurricane Idalia, said the waterway is about eight inches higher than it was in the 1940s. He said the system’s size is not a concern.

Tankersley explained that city water infrastructure was designed to accommodate people using about 150 to 160 gallons daily. He said residents use around half that amount due to conservation efforts.

“Our systems, unfortunately, are just old,” Tankersley added. “Our systems would need to be replaced even if we had zero population growth.”

St. Petersburg received $309,000 in state funding last year to help low-income residents pay utility bills. Miller said that aided 417 households.

However, she remains unsure if the city will receive additional money through the program. Councilmember Richie Floyd, who voted against the rate increases, said the council should reconsider budget priorities with residents losing that assistance.

At an upcoming meeting, administrators will propose taking $1 million in federal emergency rental assistance funding to help people pay their water bills. The council voted 6-1 to increase rates, with Councilmember Lisset Hanewicz absent.

“I hate that we have to increase rates,” Driscoll said. “We have to invest in this stuff that isn’t pretty. But it makes our city happen and keeps our residents safe and healthy.”





Continue Reading


  1. Avatar

    Linda Lowe

    September 11, 2023at3:10 pm

    Wondering if St. Pete is receiving any funds from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act passed by the federal government or if DeSantis has refused this aid.

  2. Avatar


    September 11, 2023at3:42 pm


  3. Avatar

    Nicole Caron

    September 11, 2023at6:04 pm

    This is wrong on so many levels. Let’s start with Ed Montanari’s inane comment about being “sensitive to developers.” What about being sensitive to people who have actually lived here, worked here, played here, and paid taxes here for more than a minute? Development in St. Pete is outpacing our current infrastructure’s capacity! Why should we, long-time homeowners and residents, pick up their damned tab? Honestly, this iteration of City Council is so disappointing. Out of control development in the form of high rise condos that are well out of reach of most locals, the staggering loss of affordable housing options, and again, the pressure on our infrastructure are all making St. Pete just like every other overdeveloped, slick, expensive city in Florida. We’re not special and cool anymore.

  4. Avatar


    September 11, 2023at6:59 pm

    The time to plan for aging infrastructure is not when it has fallen apart but rather when it was newly installed. Poor planning. I hope this and past administration are embarrassed, they should be.

  5. Avatar


    September 12, 2023at4:49 pm

    Stop catering to developers and start doing the right thing for the citizens of St. Pete. This is not rocket science.
    Slow down the growth or have the developers pay their share.
    The amount quoted per toilet should not be paid by us at all if the developer is adding to the toilet count. Makes no sense. Money talks and the hell with the residents is the vibe I’m getting.
    The city government needs to reevaluate their priorities soon before it’s too late. Maybe it already is.

  6. Avatar


    September 12, 2023at8:27 pm

    I am confused, it says utilities are increasing 4 to 8.5%, but which utilities? All utilities? electric, gas, water, and sewer. The article is focused on water and waste water but it doesn’t talk about any other utilities in the article. What is the increase actually applicable toward?

  7. Mark Parker

    Mark Parker

    September 13, 2023at8:18 am

    Hi Nick, the story references utilities provided by the city – water, sewer and sanitation. Thank you for reading.

  8. Avatar

    John B

    September 13, 2023at11:06 pm

    Monthly utility bills will increase by 4% to 8.5% in St. Petersburg due to aging infrastructure and inflationary costs. City Councilmembers approved the new rates, which begin in October, at a Sept. 7 meeting. The 8.5% stormwater increase follows a 15% hike last year.

    What they do not mention is the huge increase in property tax revenues over the last two years and 2023 revenues will be even higher. Then there is the $3+/recycle bin charge to 80,000 residents which totals $250,000/month for recycled material collections – and, by their own admission, the majority of those materials are going into the same incinerator as other garbage.
    It is perfectly obvious that developers should pay for their increased burden on the infrastructure, most of us have been paying ever-increasing utilities costs for years, why should they get a break.

    Then there is the $50 Million Sunrunner. Now that riders will be paying less than 20% of the cost to operate the buses, ridership will decrease and taxpayers will be paying to deliver downtown air to the beaches – and fresh beach air downtown.

    Elections have consequences and all these costs, increases and boondoggles are direct result of those we the people elected. When will we (a) wake up and actually vote and (b) try to understand the issues and the candidates and vote accordingly?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.