JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA is proposing some hefty fee increases that if approved, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.
Fees for connecting to the JEA system are also likely to rise substantially.
These are not rate hikes for electricity, water or sewer, but what are called plant capacity fees and tap and water fees. Right now, the current one-time plant capacity fee charged to builders and developers is $1,954 for a standard 3/4-inch water and sewer line connection. JEA staff has recommended a series of fee hikes every six months that would more than triple by April 2023 at just over $7,100.
The proposed water and sewer tap fee for a standard residential 3/4-inch water and sewer line is currently $2,665. That’s the fee you pay to activate a new meter. The fee hikes proposed by JEA staff would go to almost $10,000 by April 2023.
According to JEA, the increases would be the first on those fees in more than 15 years. The utility needs the increases to recoup rising costs for infrastructure, construction and to keep up with growth.
JEA officials held a 30-minute Q&A on the proposed fee hikes on Monday, and the JEA Board of Directors took up the proposed fee hikes on Tuesday but did not vote because it didn’t have a quorum. That’s expected to happen at an upcoming JEA board meeting.
Board members like Joseph DiSalvo said they’re OK with the proposal.
“I think once we get past the sticker shock, the initial impression because nothing’s changed in 15 years. The facts are here on it, so I feel personally very comfortable with this,” DiSalvo said.
The Northeast Florida Builders Association had a representative at the meeting. He warned the price increase could cut lower-end buyers out of the market.
“For every $1,000 increase on a median home price in the United States, we lose about 158,000 households. They’re priced out of the market. In Jacksonville, that equates to about 800 buyers per $1,000 increase. For a $5,000 increase, it’s 4,000 affordable homes that could not be purchased because the individual could not qualify,” said Curtis Hart, with NEFBA.
He added his organization supports a credit for lower-end homebuyers.
“We would certainly like for you to consider some sort of credit at the bottom end of the market for the affordable home folks who cannot afford this type of increase,” said Hart.
Real estate broker David Elian, with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty, said the rate hikes would be passed on to homebuyers and the people most affected would be lower-income homebuyers, particularly those who live locally.
“I think it probably hurts the most, the local buyer, the family that lives here in Jacksonville, they work here, and they’re used to our prices as they are right now,” Elian said. “Usually, they are going to pass on any additional costs to the buyer. The proof of that -- any business runs like that really.”
Elian said it’s a seller’s market right now and a lot of the buyers are coming in from the Northeast and have more money to spend than local buyers.