FORT LAUDERDALE — Like any big city, Fort Lauderdale has big bills to pay. And if you live here, you’re helping pay them.
Here’s the scoop on what you can expect to pay next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.
Mayor Dean Trantalis says residents might have “sticker shock” when they see their monthly water bills over the coming years. But the money will help pay for a modern new water plant that will deliver fresh, clear water to homes, hotels and other properties.
The new plant will remove the yellow tinge from Fort Lauderdale tap water.
Replacing pipes and water plants is not cheap.
Fort Lauderdale has embarked on an ambitious plan to build a new $1.4 billion water plant by 2026 and replace the vintage network of underground pipes snaking through city soil.
Residents will help pay the tab. Not everyone is happy about it.
Homeowner Abbe Kanner showed up at the commission’s budget hearing Tuesday to ask why residents were bearing the brunt of the cost and not the developers who are contributing to what she called the “ridiculous overbuilding” in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
But developers are helping shoulder the burden too, she was told by city officials. So are commercial property owners.
The city’s water and sewer rates are going up and will continue to rise over the next 10 years.
The average user pays $82.13 a month now. That will increase to $93.67.
The blended rate hikes for next fiscal year — 22.5% for water and 9% for sewer — will boost revenues by 14%, City Manager Greg Chavarria says.
By 2033, the average monthly water bill will increase to $165.66.
That’s more than five times what most customers pay now: $30.46.
The monthly sewer bill will go from $51.68 to $94.14 in 2033.
The water rate hikes will help pay for a new plant to replace the aging Fiveash Water Treatment Plant that was built in 1954. The city also plans to invest in a new automatic metering system.
The fee will increase by 10%, from $218.71 to $240.58 for single-family homes. The city recently adopted a hybrid fee structure that takes into account the number of trips generated by each residential unit and commercial property.
The trip rate for single-family homes will increase from $4.19 per trip to $4.61 per trip.
Instead of calculating fees based on the square footage of the property, the new rate also takes into account how many people drive to and from the property, measured in traffic trips.
The idea behind the new rate structure is that most flood prevention measures aim to safeguard roads, so the type of property that generates a lot of traffic, like a condo tower or a supermarket, has more to gain from drainage improvements than one that doesn’t and should pay more.
The money raised will help cover a $200 million bond that will be used to protect seven flood-prone neighborhoods from sea level rise, high tides and heavy rains by raising seawalls and bolstering retention areas to keep water where it belongs.
Another rate hike would come in 2026, to raise another $200 million to help fix flooding woes in the next set of neighborhoods.
The fire fee will also go up, from $321 to $338. The fire fee will bring in $52.9 million. That’s $3 million more than the previous year.
To help cover rising labor costs, property owners can expect the fire fee to increase on a yearly basis instead of every three years, Chavarria says.
Now for the good news.
When it comes to the city’s property tax rate, Fort Lauderdale has one of the lowest tax rates in Broward County: $412 per $100,000 in assessed property value. The rate has not changed in 17 years.
Next year’s total tax rate includes a debt rate to help pay off two 30-year bonds approved by voters in March 2019 for parks and a new police headquarters.
That brings the city’s total tax rate to $439 per $100,000 in assessed property value.
Residents who own a home with an assessed value of $538,105 — the average taxable value of a home in Fort Lauderdale — can expect to pay $2,363 in city property taxes next year.
Fort Lauderdale’s $463.4 million operating budget for next fiscal year won commission approval on Tuesday. A final hearing will take place on Sept. 13 at 5:01 p.m. at The Parker, 707 NE Eighth St.
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on X at Susannah_Bryan