(1) The commission may establish rules by which a water or wastewater utility whose gross annual revenues are $250,000 or less may request and obtain staff assistance for the purpose of changing its rates and charges. A utility may request staff assistance by filing an application with the commission. The gross annual revenue level shall be adjusted on July 1, 2013, and every 5 years thereafter, based on the most recent cumulative 5 years of the price index established by the commission pursuant to s. 367.081(4)(a). (2) The official date of filing is established as 30 days after official acceptance by the commission of the application. If a utility does not remit a fee, as provided by s. 367.145, within 30 days after acceptance, the commission may deny the application. The commission has 15 months after the official date of filing within which to issue a final order. (3) The provisions of s. 367.081(1), (2)(a), and (3) shall apply in determining the utility’s rates and charges.
(4) The commission may, upon its own motion, or upon petition from the regulated utility, authorize the collection of interim rates until the effective date of the final order. Such interim rates may be based upon a test period different from the test period used in the request for permanent rate relief. To establish interim relief, there must be a demonstration that the operation and maintenance expenses exceed the revenues of the regulated utility, and interim rates shall not exceed the level necessary to cover operation and maintenance expenses as defined by the Uniform System of Accounts for Class C Water and Wastewater Utilities (1996) of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
(5) The commission may require that the difference between the interim rates and the previously authorized rates be collected under bond, escrow, letter of credit, or corporate undertaking subject to refund with interest at a rate ordered by the commission.
(6) The utility, in requesting staff assistance, shall agree to accept the final rates and charges approved by the commission unless the final rates and charges produce less revenue than the existing rates and charges.
(7) In the event of a protest or appeal by a party other than the utility, the commission may provide for temporary rates subject to refund with interest.
(8) If a utility becomes exempt from commission regulation or jurisdiction during the pendency of a staff-assisted rate case, the request for rate relief is deemed to have been withdrawn. Interim rates, if previously approved, shall become final. Temporary rates, if previously approved, must be discontinued, and any money collected pursuant to the temporary rates, or the difference between temporary and interim rates, if previously approved, must be refunded to the customers of the utility with interest.
(9) The commission may by rule establish standards and procedures whereby rates and charges of small utilities may be set using criteria other than those set forth in s. 367.081(1), (2)(a), and (3).
(10) The commission shall submit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 1, 2013, and every 5 years thereafter, a report of the status of proceedings conducted under this section, including the number of utilities eligible to request staff assistance, the number of proceedings conducted annually for the most recent 5-year period, the associated impact on commission resources, and any other information the commission deems appropriate.