JEA discusses higher rates

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new push by JEA could have some local customers paying some of the highest water and sewer fees in the country.

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The new fee would be phased in over two years and would vary depending on where the property is and what needs to be done, but developers say it’s going to have a massive negative impact on affordable housing.

Financial planning and analysis director Juli Crawford broke down where the fees will be.

“We are recommending changes to water and sewer plant capacity fees, tap and meter fees, and large commercial water rates in addition to administrative tariff changes like extending the backflow prevention program.”

The proposed fee for the new developments would increase building costs by thousands of dollars.

“Based on that analysis, cost of capacity are significantly higher than current fees. Staff is recommending a phased-in approach to fees that reflect current costs, allowing developers and builders to absorb the cost gradually,” Crawford says.

Water, sewer, and irrigation plant capacity fees would increase by more than $670. Meter installation would increase by nearly $100. Tap installations would increase more than $6,000.

“The additional revenue collected will go to the capacity fund to be used for growth-related projects. This phased-in approach is reflected within the tariff as well.”

Despite having been planned for over a year, developers say they were shocked at how much prices were being raised.

“We were quite surprised at the amount of the increase. We first thought it would be around $7,500 and now it’s up to $9,098.”

The cost would put Jacksonville in line to be the city with the second highest energy rates in Florida. Developers like Curtis Hard say absorbing the price would pass it along to home buyers and renters, hence limiting housing availability.

“For every thousand dollars increase in the median price home price in the United States, we lose about 158,000 households that are then priced out of the market. In Jacksonville that equates to about 800 buyers per thousand dollar increase.”

The chair of JEA’s board, John Baker, defended the decision.

“We are only trying to recover the cost of operations, not make a profit on it.”

He added he believes people should have expected it.

“If anybody feels that’s unreasonable… they have not been reading The Wall Street Journal lately.”

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Now developers are asking JEA to establish a credit for those who are trying to build affordable housing.

“We would certainly like you to consider some sort of credit at the bottom end of the market for the affordable home folks that just cannot afford this large increase,” Hart said.

Future JEA customers looking to switch from septic to the utility would also be subject to a fee increase.