Largest homes will see increased stormwater fees
Costs will go up on some properties as the city seeks revenue to fight flooding, improve water runoff system
By Beth Kassab
City Commissioners this week approved higher stormwater fees for owners of the largest homes while those in the smallest homes will pay less, a move which could bring in an estimated additional $600,000 a year for sorely needed infrastructure projects to help control flooding and drainage.
The more than 540 owners of homes larger than 8,900 square feet will see the largest jump in price — an estimated $24.61 per month or nearly $300 a year more than under the old fee structure.
Houses less than 2,899-square-feet are likely to see a decrease in stormwater fees, with the smallest homes seeing the largest savings. The price drop is estimated to range from about $9 a year to about $60 a year.
That’s a reversal from the old fee structure, which required smaller homes to pay more per square foot than many larger ones.
“Right now the fees were a little bit regressive,” said Finance Director Wes Hamil. “The rate proposed is a little bit of a decrease for residential customers who have less square footage and it’s going to be an increase for residential properties that have more impervious surface area … It does give us some additional funding and we’re hearing a lot about demand for stormwater improvements so it’s a much needed funding source.”
Some on the increased revenue will come from another change approved by commissioners: monthly stormwater fees will now be part of property owners’ ad valorum tax bills rather than collected as part of utility customers’ monthly bills. That means owners without active utility service will now be billed. As a result, renters, who typically pay monthly utility bills, but not annual property taxes, will no longer be directly billed for the fees.
Residents on the city’s west side experienced severe flooding after Hurricane Ian as well as other storms and have voiced concerns for months over whether the city is doing enough to address the problems.
Douglas Avenue, just across Denning Drive from Martin Luther King Jr. Park, flooded again recently after a 45-minute rainfall, resident Bonnie Hamilton told commissioners on Wednesday.
“I really hope and pray that the city is doing everything … whatever you can do to fix the infrastructure in the Hannibal Square area,” she said of the historically Black neighborhood, noting one neighbor recently left her car keys behind while she went on vacation so other neighbors could move her car if the street floods again.
Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio expressed some urgency later in the meeting, asking city staff if reports related to proposed improvements will be ready for the heavy storm season later this summer and early fall.
“When are these reports going to come in? Six months from now? The season’s going to be over,” she said. “We have to do something.”
Final approval of the new rates will come later this summer as commissioners finalize the next budget.