Published: Jun 21, 2013 3:28 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 21, 2013 6:34 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- There could be a costly surprise coming soon to your utility bill in Lee County. Budget planners are promoting increases in the utility franchise fees, costs that get passed right along to the customer.

Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) customers would feel the biggest impact. Fees would increase to 4.5 percent for 87,000 customers in North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Pine Island. The county's LCEC fees would not apply to Cape Coral customers; they already are covered by fees imposed by the city of Cape Coral.

"I don't like it. It hits my pocket, and a lot of us are struggling," says Janet Beehler, an LCEC customer in North Fort Myers.

Lee County faces a budget shortfall that is approaching $34 million, without a tax increase or fees increase. As a result, staffers also are proposing increases in the Florida Power and Light fees, and a possible hike in property taxes. 

Commissioner Frank Mann is not pleased. 

"I am disappointed that we are looking at the revenue when people are hurting. I wish our staff had looked harder at cuts. We have to find ways to save money, and not just increases taxes and fees," he told WINK News.

Commissioners get a briefing on the budget scenarios on Monday. They have to approve a balanced budget for the coming year, by October 1.