SOUTH PALM BEACH — An audit of South
Palm Beach's financial operations will result in the town
crediting residents with more than $450,000 in sewer fees.
The Palm Beach County
Inspector General's review determined that South Palm Beach
did not adequately inform residents in 2017 and 2018 of
increases in the sewer rate as required by state law and
over-billed customers by around $170,000.
Town Manager Robert Kellogg said the findings prompted the
town's own review that showed sewer customers had not been
properly notified of higher bills in 2019 and 2020, creating
an additional $285,000 in overcharges.
"Although it’s not specifically cited on the [inspector
general's] report, we thought the right thing to do was to
refund that money to the residents as well," Kellogg said.
“In the future, we will make sure we comply with that formal
notice that is required.”
The refunds will come in the form of
credits, not cash. The plan must still be approved by the
town council at its next meeting on April 13.
Remittances to owners of single-family homes, townhouses or
condos with dedicated sewer connections will range from less
than $25 to around $500.
Kellogg said the council publicly addressed increases to the
sewer rate during past annual discussions on the town
But that doesn't meet what is required by Florida Statue
Chapter 180, Section 136 which states that "before a local
government water or sewer utility increases any rate,
charge, or fee..." customers must be notified through their
South Palm Beach, with a population of around 1,300 people,
did not do that.
Kellogg, town manager since December 2018, said that the
practice probably goes back to 2006.
A large percentage of the refunds, Kellogg said, will be
going to the homeowners association of the various
condominiums that take up most of the town's .35 square
The Barclay, a condominium with 208 residences, will get
$48,466.36 in sewer credits.
Kellogg said the town has not informed residents of the
credits. They will appear on bills arriving in April and
October. Most residents will "pay very little" on either
cycle, he said.
"I think everybody is going to be tickled to death that
they’re getting some kind of stimulus check back… with this
credit," Kellogg said.
The giveback means the town will collect only 15 percent of
expected revenue from sewer bills this year, but Kellogg
said the town was most concerned about being "transparent."
Recommendations made in the inspector general's report to
"assist [South Palm Beach] in strengthening internal
controls and enhance compliance" with regulatory
requirements are being implemented, according to the
inspector general's office.