Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stormwater scheme spreads to Snellville

Our city fathers (and mothers) are set to adopt a Stormwater Utility Ordinance on Monday, February 25, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The consultant that prepared the research in support of the tax [I apologize, it is a fee. Well, that certainly feels much better to my wallet.], will make a presentation at 5:30 p.m. in advance of the meeting.

I have many issues with these so-called stormwater fees and I've voiced my concerns to elected, staff, and consultants. Rather than rant on my philosophical objections to such a revenue scheme, I'll address a few issues specific to Snellville's proposal. My comments are in response to details contained in three documents available at the City of Snellville website titled Stormwater part 1, Stormwater part 2, and Stormwater part 3. They're quite similar to a horror movie with increasingly frightening sequels.

In Stormwater part 1, the monster first appears in the grotesque form of stormwater runoff. Our hero, the City responds, however, not by attacking runoff, rather by taxing [darn it, sorry again, levying a fee on] impervious surface (that's the roof above your head). What is really scary is that the fee is determined by adding up staff time (the City Manager will spend three times as much time on stormwater issues than the Public Works Director if you believe the research - I don't), administration and regulatory costs, operations and maintenance, and capital investment (that doesn't increase a cent from existing investment according to the initial proposal). Stormwater part 1 concludes with a most frightening scene claiming 55% of fees go to capital investment, operations and maintenance. The remaining 45% of fees going to overhead, regulatory compliance, and bureaucracy that sustains the creature to terrorize again.

And terrorize he does. In Stormwater part 2, we are frantically attempting to escape failing pipes, damaged catch basin lids, sinkholes, and illegal dumping. This monster we've created requires an estimated $1.9 million in immediate repair or replacement. See, isn't it getting scarier?

As our terrorizing trilogy ends, Stormwater part 3, scares the beejeebees out of me and I haven't gotten beyond the title yet, "Future SWMP Funding Strategy". This monster is planning future expenditures that will mandate future fee increases [I did not say tax increases - I'm catching on to the lingo now]. Most horrific is that the scheme raises only $271,000 more than current revenues to address the immediate needs as it dangerously replaces existing general fund investment in public works with the new stormwater utility fund thereby increasing the monster's appetite by over $400,000 for new general fund spending on as yet unaware victims.

One thing is for sure, this Stormwater Utility Ordinance is scary stuff and not for the "little ones."


Darla said...

I think the "consultants" will be the real winners in this.

Maybe that $34,000 or so that was spent for Municipal Association membership could have gone toward this. I'm sorry to keep harping on it, but what is the membership in the municipal association doing for the City of Snellville? Is it worth $34K..? Maybe it is worth it. I figured you would know.

Brett's Blog said...


Thanks for the links from your site to my blogs.

Personally, I believe the investment with GwMA is good for Snellville. GwMA is an association of all the cities within Gwinnett County and those that are partially within the County such as Loganville and Braselton. GwMA advocates for City issues with the County, State, and others. Sometimes the City's position is different than that of the other governments so it is to our advantage to join with other cities to advocate our position.

Over many years, GwMA has operated on a voluntary basis with regard to staffing. The funds in question, as I understand it, will go toward hiring a full-time GwMA employee that will work on city issues daily. Those issues include such things as storm water, tax equity, annexation, etc.

As an example, many may have never thought that if their child plays baseball at the E.R. Snell fields in Snellville they are effectively triple taxed. First, since E.R. Snell ballpark has been until recently a private facility, you pay the private registration for your child. If you live in Snellville you also pay to support recreation via your city property taxes (Briscoe Park) and you also pay for recreation via your County property taxes. There is most likely a tax equity question here that the GwMA employee should discuss.

There are many other issues and most assuredly more to come in the future. With all 13 or 15 cities in Gwinnett sharing the cost, more may be accomplished at a lower cost than if a single city paid the entire bill.