PTC votes 137% hike in stormwater fees for property owners
Homeowners, businesses, schools and churches in Peachtree City will see a steep increase in their stormwater bills this year.
Most homeowners’ annual bills will increase between $44 a year to $99 a year, depending on the amount of impervious surface on the property.
City officials contend the rate hike is necessary to fund $7.4 million in repairs, including dam repairs which if neglected would endanger life and property downstream.
The city groups homeowners into four tiers for billing purposes. Those in Tier I will see their bill rise from $32.28 to $76.68; Tier II rises from $47.40 to $112.69 and Tier III would rise from $72 to $171.24 a year. The fourth tier, for attached residential (AR) would rise from $22.20 to $52.68 a year.
That is an across the board increase of 137 percent in all stormwater bills including those for businesses, schools and churches, many of whom will pay far more than the average homeowner because parking lots are included in the calculation of impervious space that ultimately determines the final bill charged to a given parcel.
These increases also incorporate a surcharge to each bill for the impervious streets in the city, a $355,000 amount that previously came from the city’s general fund, according to city staff.
There was talk among council about making sure that the city reduces its upcoming budget by that same $355,000 to make sure it is not double-charging residents.
Councilman Eric Imker noted that city residents can qualify for 25 percent off their stormwater bill if they participate in a cleanup program such as the city’s Adopt A Path or Adopt A Street programs. Another 10 percent credit is offered for homes which use rain barrels to impound stormwater from roof systems.
The benefit of refinancing now is that the city can take advantage of incredibly low interest rates for not just the $7.4 million in new projects but also the remaining $2.6 million on the initial stormwater bond from 2006 for a total savings of $500,000 over the remaining 14 years of payments.
Imker said one of his concerns was the possibility that in the near future the city would find another round of super-expensive stormwater projects in a cycle that could cause stormwater bills to increase significantly again.
“I don’t want to come up and see another $7 million bond three years from now,” Imker said.
Stormwater Program Manager Mark Caspar noted that the proposed $7.4 million in projects are believed to be the most expensive repairs that will be necessary for the system, which has been better maintained and cared for since the stormwater utility started in 2006.
Imker asked how many more stormwater repair projects the city can expect in future years to cost upwards of $1 million.
“None that we know of today,” Caspar replied.
The ponds which need the dam repairs in particular impound a large amount of stormwater that could endanger lives downstream if a dam breach were to occur.
“These are regional ponds that hold lots of water,” Caspar said.
The rate increase was approved on a 4-1 vote with Mayor Don Haddix voting against. Haddix said though he agreed the projects needed to be done, he couldn’t support the increase because of a lack of a comprehensive approach to reducing city taxes.
Though the other council members were hesitant to raise the rates so significantly, they agreed the work needed to be done to prevent the loss of life and property in the future.
“We have to have the courage to do the right thing: fix the problem,” said Councilwoman Kim Learnard.
Among the major project estimates expected to be handled with the $7.4 million bond issue are:
• $1.5 million to line stormwater pipes that run beneath city streets and roads, along with other miscellaneous projects;
• $1.8 million to replace the drain system in the Harbor Loop area;
• $1.3 million to replace the drain system in the Golfview Drive area;
• $1.2 million to rehabilitate the two Kedron ponds;
• $911,000 for rehabilitation of the Rockspray pond;
• $450,000 for pipe lining in the area of Woodsdale and Lenox Road; and
• $120,000 for repairs to the stilling basin at the BCS Pond.