Gulfport Raises Utilities, Lowers Reserve, Keeps Millage Rate

It was all about the numbers at the Gulfport City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 16. 

Utilities Rising 

A series of approved ordinances concerning raised water, sewer and sanitation bills, will cost Gulfport residents a little more out of their pocket monthly. 

Upon city staff’s recommendations, council approved a 6 percent increase within the city’s sanitation fund, which will raise garbage and recycling costs by $1.48 per month.

 Sewer, water and stormwater costs will have an 8 percent rate increase across the board. 

“I’m sorry we have to do it but we do,” said Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson.

The increase on water related utilities has been long coming. Considering Gulfport – among other municipalities – purchases its water from the City of St. Petersburg. The long-standing contract between St. Petersburg and Gulfport expired in October of 2018, and a renewal stipulation called for a 25 percent out-of-city limits surcharge. 

“I’d really just like to say we do have a wonderful up-front staff that promotes water conservation,” said Finance Director Cheryl Hannafin. 

In Case of Emergency

In September of 2003, council approved an added reserve fund in the general fund to ensure a stable pool of revenue in case of a natural disaster, considering Gulfport is so close to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Previously, this reserve fund was required to maintain a balance equal to 25 percent of the general fund budget. On the Tuesday night meeting, council approved a lowering of that percentage to 16 percent. 

“We are a gateway to the gulf,” said one unnamed and concerned Gulfport resident. “Take a look at what’s going on in Mexico City. I want our city to be able to help survivors if something was to ever happen.” 

This lowers the reserve fund from approximately $3,062,500 to $1,960,000 for the fiscal year 2019, boiling down to a $1.1 million surplus.

“This would not be used to rebuild the town,” said Henderson. “This would be used for employees, and to keep paying salaries and to keep everything stable.”

Millage Rate Maintains 

Among rising expenses, the Gulfport millage rate, currently at 4.039 mills, didn’t budge before council. 

“This really feels like a rate that has been working,” said Henderson. “In light of the fact that we have to raise so many other things, I’m glad we don’t have to raise this.” 

According to Henderson, this is the eighth consecutive year that the millage rates have maintained the same numbers. 

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