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FAQs: Utility

Certification Questions

Q: Do I need to be certificated by the FPSC as a water and/or wastewater utility?
A: If you own, operate, manage, control a system, or propose construction of a system, in a county under the FPSC's jurisdiction , that is providing, or proposes to provide, water or wastewater service to the public for compensation you must obtain a certificate. There are some situations that are exempt from regulation by the FPSC; those exemptions can be found in Section 367.022 , Florida Statutes (F.S.).

Q: How do I apply for a certificate?
A: You must complete the appropriate application. Once complete the application and filing fee should be filed with the Office of Commission Clerk, 2540 Shumard Oak Boulevard, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0850.

Q: Do I have to pay a filing fee to get a certificate?
A: Yes. When a utility files an application for a certificate of authorization the utility shall remit a fee . A separate fee applies for water service and wastewater service. The fees are based upon the existing or proposed capacity of the system.

Q: Are certificates transferable?
A: Yes. You must file an application for authority to transfer.

Q: If I change the utility’s name only, do I need to notify the FPSC and my customers?
A: Yes. If you are a certificated utility that changes its name only, with no change in the ownership or control of the utility or its assets, you must notify the FPSC and your customers. Please see Rule 25-30.039, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), for details.

Q: I’d like to amend my service territory, what should I do?
A: You should complete the Application for Amendment of Certificate. This application is used when a utility wishes to extend its service territory into an area in which there is no existing water or wastewater system or proposes to delete a portion of its service territory.

Rates Questions

Q: What are the different types of rate case options?
A: There are three different types of rate case options: (1) The Standard Rate Case; (2) The Proposed Agency Action Process; and (3) The Staff Assisted Rate Case. Please click here for a detailed explanation of each.

Q: How do I apply for a rate increase?
A: If you need staff’s assistance and are a water or wastewater utility with annual revenues under $275,000, or, if you provide both water and wastewater service and have annual revenues under $550,000, you may file an application for a Staff Assisted Rate Case (SARC).

If you do not qualify for a SARC, please see Rule 25-30.436 , F.A.C., General Information and Instructions Required of Class A and B Water and Wastewater Utilities in an Application for Rate Increase.

Q: How do I file for a limited proceeding?
A: Please see Rule 25-30.445 , F.A.C., General Information and Instructions Required of Water and Wastewater Utilities in an Application for a Limited Proceeding. Please note that in evaluating whether the utility’s request is improper for a limited proceeding, the Commission will consider factors such as:
  • Whether the utility’s filing includes more than 4 separate projects for which recovery is sought and the requested rate increase exceeds 30 percent. Corresponding adjustments for a given project are not subject to the above limitation;
  • Whether the utility has not had a rate case in more than seven years and the requested rate increase exceeds 30 percent; or
  • Whether the limited proceeding is filed as the result of the complete elimination of either the water or wastewater treatment process, and the requested rate increase exceeds 30 percent.
Q: What are price indexes and pass throughs?
A: Price indexes and pass throughs are mechanisms designed to enable the FPSC to review rate applications without requiring a general rate proceeding, an expensive and time consuming process. Also, these rate increases are smaller than those resulting from a general rate case, reducing the financial impact on customers.
Price Index: Since 1981, the FPSC has established an annual price index increase or decrease for major categories of operating costs in the water and wastewater industry. The price index rate adjustment process is designed to help utilities maintain financial stability by gradually keeping up with rising industry costs. The cost categories include labor, chemicals, sludge-hauling, materials and supplies, maintenance, transportation, and treatment expense. The price index is established by March 31 each year and is calculated using a comparison of the U.S. Department of Commerce's average Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator Index for the preceding two years.

Pass Through: A pass through rate adjustment enables a utility to adjust its rates to reflect an increase or decrease in the rates or fees that it is charged for certain expenses such as electric power, ad valorem taxes, and water or wastewater testing required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
See the 2015 Index Packet for the most current price index and pass through information. Also please note that utilities are limited to a total of two price index and/or pass through rate adjustments within any given 12-month period, but are allowed to combine a price index and pass through into a single rate adjustment. For a printable brochure on this topic please go to Water Price Index Brochure

Q: Am I ready to file for a Staff Assisted Rate Case (SARC)?
A: Before you file, please make sure you:
  • Have your books and records in order (i.e., in compliance with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners accounting standards)
  • File your Annual Report with the Commission
  • File a complete application and include all required supporting documentation
  • Have the funds to pay the appropriate filing fee
  • File your RAFs for all previous periods
You may call the FPSC’s Division of Accounting and Finance at (850) 413-6900 or the Division of Engineering at (850) 413-6910 to discuss your application prior to filing.

Q: What happens after I file for a SARC?
A: The list below identifies the major steps after you file your application and pay your fee.
  • A staff auditor conducts an examination of the utility’s books and records
  • A staff engineer conducts a review of the utility’s operations and contacts the Department of Environmental Protection
  • A staff report is prepared with staff’s preliminary findings and preliminary rate increase
  • A customer meeting is held to receive input from customers
  • After the customer meeting, staff prepares and files a recommendation that details staff’s proposed rates. The recommendation will be heard by the Commission
  • At the Commission Conference, the Commissioners may ask questions of staff prior to voting on staff’s recommendation. The utility and customers may speak. The Commission may approve, deny, or modify staff’s recommendation
  • After the vote, a Commission PAA Order is issued within 20 days
  • A 21-day protest period then begins where any substantially affected party, other than the utility, may protest the order and request a Section 120.57, Florida Statutes, hearing
  • The utility must agree to accept final rates and charges set by the Commission unless they produce less revenue than the existing rates and charges
Q: What are some common mistakes utilities make when filing for a rate increase?
A: Some common mistakes utilities make are:
  • Filing incomplete information
  • Not paying filing fees in a timely manner
  • Not having books and records in order for the FPSC auditor to review
  • Not filing current system maps
  • Not including invoices/estimates for pro forma requests
You may call the FPSC’s Division of Accounting and Finance at (850) 413-6900 or the Division of Engineering at (850) 413-6910 to discuss your application prior to filing.

Q: Do I have to pay filing fees when I apply for a rate increase?
A: Yes. When a utility files any request for a rate change (except an index or pass-through), the utility must remit the appropriate fee to the Commission.

Q: Do I have to contact the Office of Public Counsel before I ask for a rate increase?
A: No. While they are an advocate for consumers before the FPSC, and many times they are actively involved in water and wastewater rate cases, you are not required to contact them prior to filing for a rate increase.

Q: Can I collect a deposit from my customers?
A: Yes. When a customer applies for water or wastewater service, the utility can ask that the customer establish credit by furnishing a cash deposit, a satisfactory guarantor to secure payment of bills, an irrevocable letter of credit from a bank, or a surety bond. Each utility requiring customer deposits must pay a minimum of 2 percent interest per year on the deposit. However, after a residential customer has established a satisfactory payment record and has had continuous service for 23 months, the utility must refund the customer's deposit. See Rule 25-30.311, F.A.C., for additional information.

Q: Can I charge a late payment charges and bad check charges?
A: Yes. Late payment charges and bad check charges are allowed. However, these charges must first be approved by the Commission and then disclosed in the utility’s tariff.

Q: How should my rates be structured?
A: Most water and wastewater rates are developed with a base facilities charge and a gallonage charge. The base facilities charge is a flat charge that is designed to recover the fixed costs of utility service and remains the same each month regardless of consumption. The gallonage charge recovers the variable costs associated with the utility service such as electricity, chemicals, and labor involved in production and distribution of water service and the removal, treatment, and disposal of wastewater. You can contact the FPSC’s Division of Economics at (850) 413-6410 for additional information.

Regulatory Assessment Fees (RAFs) and Annual Reports

Q: What are RAFs?
A: RAFs are the fees paid by utilities, pursuant to Florida Statutes, which are based upon its gross operating revenue. They are included in utility’s rates to defray the costs of regulation.

Q: Do I have to file a RAF form even if I’m not making any money?
A: Yes. A minimum annual regulatory assessment fee of $25 shall be imposed if there are no revenues or if revenues are insufficient to generate a minimum annual fee.

Q: Do I have to file an Annual Report with the FPSC?
A: Yes. Each utility shall file with the Commission annual reports on forms prescribed by the Commission. The obligation to file an annual report for any year shall apply to any utility which is subject to this Commission’s jurisdiction as of December 31 of that year, whether or not the utility has actually applied for or has been issued a certificate, pursuant to Rule 25-30.110, F.A.C., Records and Reports; Annual Reports.

Customer Service

Q: Am I required to provide service to anyone in my service territory that makes proper application?
A: Yes. Each utility is required to provide service without unreasonable delay to anyone in its service area who makes proper application.

Q: How often should I bill my customers?
A: The utility is required to read the customer's meter and send bills at regular intervals. Most utilities bill monthly for service; however, a few utilities bill bimonthly or quarterly.

Q: Can I do estimated bills?
A: Yes. Pursuant to Rule 25-30.335, Customer Billing, when a utility is unable to obtain an actual meter read, estimated bills may be provided. If the utility estimates a bill, the bill statement shall prominently show the word “Estimated” on the face of the bill. The utility is obligated to timely correct any problems within the utility’s control causing the need to estimate bills. In no event shall a utility provide an estimated bill to any one customer more than four times in any 12-month period due to circumstances that are within the utility’s control and service obligations. Upon issuance of a second estimated bill in a 6 month period, the utility shall provide the customer with an explicit written explanation for the estimation, along with the utility contact information and the Commission’s toll-free complaint number, 1-800-342-3552. The utility is also required to maintain records, for a minimum of two years, detailing the number, frequency, and causes of estimated bills, which shall be made available upon request to the Commission or to any party to a rate proceeding for the utility.

Q: Do I have to notify my customers when they are delinquent and subject to service interruption?
A: Yes. The customer has 20 days from the postmark date to pay the bill. If payment is not made by the due date on the bill, service may be discontinued provided the company sends a written notice that the account is delinquent and subject to interruption of service. The notice should allow the customer at least 5 business days to remedy any deficiency. Also, service cannot be discontinued or withheld because a previous occupant did not pay the bill.

Q: Do I have to provide my customers with a boil water notice?
A: Yes. Pursuant to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Rule 62-555.350, F.A.C., Operation and Maintenance of Public Water Systems, suppliers of water shall issue precautionary “boil water” notices as required or recommended in the Department of Health’s “Guidelines for the Issuance of Precautionary Boil Water Notices” as adopted in Rule 62-555.335, F.A.C.

Q: Should I reach out to my customers outside of a rate proceeding?
A: The FPSC believes that customer outreach is vital to providing overall quality of service. By proactively reaching out to your customers, you may become aware of concerns before they become problems. Therefore, while not required, we urge all regulated water and wastewater utilities under the Commission’s jurisdiction to periodically reach out to their customers via any combination of meetings, emails, social media, interactive website, or whatever medium is appropriate for your customer base. Some suggested topics to address are:
  • The status of the utility’s operations
  • The results of the Consumer Confidence Report
  • The need for system improvements
  • Water quality issues
Other

Q: Where can I turn to for help regarding issues with the quality of water I provide?
A: Depending on the specific issues, you may want to contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Water Management District, and/or your local county health department. You can also contact the FPSC’s Division of Engineering at (850) 413-6910 for additional guidance.

Q: What is the Florida Rural Water Association (FRWA)?
A: According to their website (http://www.frwa.net/):
The FRWA was originally formed for the benefit of small water and wastewater systems throughout Florida. We now serve all systems, large and small. We are a nonprofit, non-regulatory professional association. We are not a government agency. Our primary purpose is to assist water and wastewater systems with every phase of the water and wastewater operations. Our Active members consist of public water and wastewater systems, such as counties, municipalities, associations, districts, mobile home parks, schools, authorities, etc. FRWA was originally formed for the benefit of small water and wastewater systems throughout Florida. They now serve all systems, large and small. We are a nonprofit, non-regulatory professional association. We are not a government agency. Our primary purpose is to assist water and wastewater systems with every phase of the water and wastewater operations. Our Active members consist of public water and wastewater systems, such as counties, municipalities, associations, districts, mobile home parks, schools, authorities, etc.