110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
posted Oct 25, 2012 - 2:43:11pm
The vast majority of water-bill payers in Deltona must be shaking their heads in confusion as they look at their own water bills, and compare them to examples being paraded publicly to whip up passion on the campaign trail.
At gatherings organized by SaveDeltona.com, an electioneering committee backing three candidates for Deltona City Commission, the talk is consistently about outrageously high water bills.
But most Deltona water bills aren’t outrageously high. The average bill is around $32.
A friend who lives in Deltona told us about his recent $15 monthly water bill. That included an $11 base fee, plus $4 for a conservative amount of water used by a small household that doesn’t over-irrigate the lawn.
That’s not to say there aren’t some high bills, and some problems, in Deltona’s utility system and charges.
But the water rates aren’t the problem. Lowering the rates may create the euphoria of temporary political triumph over City Hall, but this triumph is misguided. Lowering water rates will only cripple Deltona’s ability to solve its real problems in the long run, including the city’s need for economic development, which will require an expanded water and sewage system.
In fact, if the city’s bond rating is lowered because Deltona positions itself to be unable to maintain the water system and pay off its debt, the rate cut could cause even more problems.
All across West Volusia, water users have had to adjust to higher rates as providers adjust to demands from the St. Johns River Water Management District to find and fund alternatives to drawing all of our drinking water — and in many cases our irrigation water — from the Floridan Aquifer.
These water-supply alternatives are going to be expensive, and Deltona needs to be ready to partner with other West Volusia cities in finding the solution. Deltona residents can’t expect to sit out this situation that affects the entire region, simply because they had grown accustomed to super-low water rates that, under private ownership, hadn’t been adjusted in almost 20 years.
The Deltona City Commission needs to look at sewage charges, and see how the expenses of the sewage system might be more fairly met. While Deltona’s water rates are lower than those of many neighboring cities, the sewage rates are higher.
The city might also want to investigate homeowners-association rules that might be requiring Deltona residents to overwater. Since the water rates are tiered, the more you use, the higher your rate. Thus, the outrageously high water bills are likely due to lawn irrigation, not water use for essential human needs.
Responsibly meeting the expenses of Volusia County’s largest city, while protecting that city’s residents from governmental waste or abuse of tax dollars, goes beyond the shallow rhetoric of a political speech.
It is a weighty matter and an extremely important job — not just in Deltona, but for all of West Volusia.
We hope the Deltona City Commission is able to resist political pressure to cut residents’ water bills without regard to the consequences, and we hope Deltona residents will choose wisely in the Nov. 6 City Commission election.
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