DELTONA, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - The City of Deltona faces a very difficult decision, whether to raise the water rates and pay off debt or go deeper into debt.
City leaders are looking an implementing a 15 percent rate hike for one year, then a 5 percent hike every year after. For the average water customer, it amounts to a $45 increase for the first year.
According to Deltona’s Mayor Heidi Herzberg, the city is $121 million in debt from the water system, much thanks to no rate hikes for about 10 years.
“You’re looking 9 to 10 years of absolutely no rate increases and when you do that, obviously nothing stays the same, your costs for operations and maintenance, gas, utilities, employees, all that goes up,” said Herzberg.
Mark Donley is a Deltona resident living with Leukemia, his medical costs have him living on a tight budget, so he’s worried about a water rate hike the City is considering.
“The seniors only can take so much, you only get so much social security,” said Donley.
Donley says the need for a drastic hike is the result of bad planning.
“Do you blame the seniors or do you blame the City? It’s bad management,” he added.
“Should they have raised rates in the past? Absolutely!” said Herzberg.
The mayor is now trying to catch up and pay off debt.
“By not doing that back then, we are where we are again and in my view, this commission can choose not to implement an increase but then you’re kicking the can down the road, next year after,” said Herzberg.
But Donley fears he can’t afford the hike.
“They gotta stop somewhere or they gotta have some sort of break for the seniors,” said Donley.
“We’re looking at some type of help whether it’s internal funding or community funding to help those people, I mean, my mom is a senior and it’s difficult when you’re on a fixed income,” said Herzberg.
The city has started a community fund to help those in need of assistance. The issue is expected up for discussion in July and implementation of any hike, if approved, would be October 1, 2019.