When your stormwater bill arrives — don’t pay it
Sometime in August, Fayette County will be sending out bills, to all non-city residents, to raise money for the new Stormwater Utility. Thousands of us will be paying $25, or more, in the form of a “fee” and the county will raise about $575,000.
But our incumbent commissioners will insist that this is not a tax. They have been trying to convince you that they are keeping the tax levels low so we will vote for them. By calling this a fee they will take five employees off the General Fund and pay their costs from a utility. This is smoke and mirrors if I have ever heard of it.
The worst part of this new utility is that it does not serve the citizens equally nor does it differentiate between those who really impact stormwater from those who have zero impact. Therefore this “fee” does not treat Fayette County citizens equally.
There are variations on the definition of a fee as opposed to a tax, but the easiest to understand is this: A fee is a charge for a service. If you pay a fee, you get something for it.
Many thousands of Fayette County residents will receive ZERO in return for paying this fee and we have the incumbent commissioners to thank.
Neither the Stormwater Department staff nor the expensive consultant could figure out how to set up an equitable stormwater utility. Their simpleton answer is to charge every property owner the same rate. It doesn’t matter to them that circumstances prove that many properties have virtually no impact on stormwater runoff, nor on the quality of our water.
I have over 40 years of experience dealing with the Clean Water Act, which requires something in the way of stormwater management programs. I can tell you that what Fayette County is about to impose on us is absolutely wrong and a misuse of this federal statute.
When your bill arrives, refuse to pay.
Everyone who receives a bill for utility should challenge the validity of the purposes, the basis and overall appropriateness of this nonsense and especially their proposal for how services will be applied throughout the county. You should also be angry that they will be taking several thousand dollars to pay for a separate billing process. Why, you might ask, was this “fee” not included on the normal tax bill?
When the bill arrives, call and demand a written statement of how they arrived at your fee. Also, demand an on-site meeting with these so-called experts to have them prove how the runoff from your roof will degrade the water quality in your nearby stream. Demand that the commissioners provide a report, specific to your property, which shows how the stormwater utility will be benefitting you in any way. If they can do all of these things then pay the bill. If not, tell them to take it to the judge to prove what they can not prove.
This is one more item that the new Board of Commissioners will need to address. If the current county staff could not figure this out, then find someone with a little competence to fill the jobs. Also, find a consultant that can handle a complex planning need, because it is obvious that the one under contract can not do so.
[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]