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Authority: Bill would cost county stormwater funds

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Legislation that could keep governments from adding fees to property tax bills could cost Gwinnett's stormwater utility up to half a million dollars.

Members of the local stormwater authority, which was created in 2007 to oversee the management of the county's 1,300 miles of drainage system, submitted a resolution and letter to members of the General Assembly expressing their concern with H.B. 159, a bill authored by Snellville Rep. Brett Harrell to take the non-tax fees off of property tax bills.

Not only would the change force the county to establish a duplicate billing system expected to cost $535,000 in its first year and $435,000 in subsequent years, but the authority members said they would expect an increase in delinquencies reducing annual revenues between $3 million and $6 million.

"Adequately maintained storm-water infrastructure is critical to the support of our transportation system and to the protection of public safety through the prevention of flooding," authority chairman Scott Batterton said in the letter to legislators. "Passage of the bill into law will lower revenues thereby causing either a disproportionate sharing of the burden of managing these public assets or reducing the amount of storm sewer system that can be rehabilitated or replaced, which in turn will increase the county's risk and liability."

The letter, submitted via email, prompted several public officials to tell legislators they agree with the proposal, including County Commissioner Tommy Hunter, a former member of the county's water and sewerage authority, Snellville Councilman Dave Emanuel and Lilburn Councilman Thomas Wight. (Batterton is also a Lilburn councilman and serves on the county authority because the city has partnered with the organization.)

"The purpose of HB 159 is not allow local governments to more efficiently increase the burden county, municipal governments and government agencies place on residents," Wight said in an email. "The bill is designed to hold local government to a higher standard than the standard of mere expediency. The costs of HB 159 are negligible. The benefits are two fold: (1) It puts the rule of law above expediency; (2) It assists residents to clearly differentiate between taxes and non-tax fees."

Lilburn Councilman Tim Dunn sided with Batterton and the authority, where members voted unanimously to oppose the bill.

"The cost to city government to duplicate a billing process is not negligible. If this bill passes, citizens will be able to differentiate between fees and the increase in taxes to pay for the redundant system," he said. "The current billing differentiates already between taxes and assessments (not taxes)."

Comments

kevin 1 year, 6 months ago

This bill is good for the trash fees only.

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

No actually it’s for all charges - if they are on your tax bill it’s got to be a tax. If the government is going to be allowed to use tax collection powers and Sherriff sales as a catastrophic end, it should be reserved for taxes.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 6 months ago

Why don't they have the guts to roll these fees into annual taxes--they get the money and citizens can write the whole thing off. Win-win.

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notblind 1 year, 6 months ago

Churches don't pay taxes but they do have to pay fees. Lots of money from those huge church parking lots which DO have a significant impact on stormwater redirection and flow rates UNLIKE the typical one family residence. For them it's just another tax.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 6 months ago

So the county government is using "fees" to circumvent the law that prohibits churches from being taxed? What happened to separation of church and state? Also, those big churches have their own storm water conveyance systems and retention ponds to keep any more water from leaving their property than would in the "before developed" condition. You think for one minute if they have a problem with their pipes or pond that the county is going to use some of that money the church paid in to fix it? Heck no!! They get to do that on their own--plus get screwed by the government.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 6 months ago

I agree...i dont understand the problem....Its going to be charged to you one way or another...I do a short form for my tax so this dosent help me...For all you that file a long form it would be a deduction and that would help a bit...They are going to get the money one way or another...what is the beef.

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ptm4936 1 year, 6 months ago

HB159 is a solution looking for a problem to solve where none exists.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually the storm water fee was a solution looking for a problem which even allowed Bannister and Kenerly the ability to say "I didn't raise taxes".

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

No HB 159 is the clearest, shortest, most concise bill they have this cycle.

(Which is why it simply scares the stuffing out of the elected purveyors of confusion)

Truth - the bain of budget sleight of hand we so often see…

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Karl 1 year, 6 months ago

The stormwater authority's claim about this bill is BS. I can't believe some others have been duped by their bogus whining.

Get all NON-TAXES off our dadgum property tax bills NOW.

I get a monthly bill from Gwinnett County for my water, why can't my garbage and stormwater fees be put on that as well?

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 6 months ago

Although I'm all for efficiency, I'm glad to see that these fees will be separated. Fees such as the stormwater "usage" fee are bogus and by separating them, it exposes them for what they are. I pay a fairly significant amount to these "services", yet not a single drop of water runs off my property into county storm drains. I've complained about this to the county only to be told "too bad, the fee is mandatory." Although I've not personally tried it, I've been told that if you try to subtract the amount from the property tax, the county claims that you are not paying your "taxes" in full. If the fee is mandatory and I have no recourse in appealing them, how is this not a tax anyway?

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 6 months ago

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

Garbage and sewer fees we would pose

Are tax increases with intent of deceit.

Their bouquet? Akin to what pols excrete.

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SuxBeanU 1 year, 6 months ago

omg, If the stormwater outfit doesn't get it's money who will pay to paint the little blue fish on the storm drains? :-P I have a better idea, let's make all these "fees" voluntary.

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kevin 1 year, 6 months ago

Have we all forgot that we pay a very hefty price each month on the water bill for drainage/sewerage repairs? Why stormwater fees in the first place? We get hit from all sides by the county.

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Why_not 1 year, 6 months ago

My water bill doesn't have any charges for storm water fees. Are we getting different kinds of bills? :-)

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

Cause its on the property tax bill as a fee

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

Different system the service is needed but developers had the grease to stall it while they built out the county in 1980s and 1990s. Now the residents get it.

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kayak 1 year, 6 months ago

Don't confuse stormwater with sewerage; stormwater runs down the street after falling from the sky and sewerage is what is flushed down the toilet/runs down the drains of our homes. If you have a septic system instead of being tied into the county sewer system, your monthly water bill does not have an extra charge for sewerage. Those of us that are tied in, are charged more for what leaves the house than what enters it.

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crobin7028 1 year, 6 months ago

First of all it's called a " property tax bill" for a reason. That is all that should be on it. The storm water authority could add it's fees to the water bill which seems like a more logical place for it. Trash companies should do there own billing like every other private company. I could not agree more with the author of this bill. It's long over due.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 6 months ago

If the trash companies collected the fees directly for trash service, that would cut the county out. As much as they claim they aren't making money on this trash service policy, they are because they are having to pay for the folks managing all this. I'd like to do away with all this county imposed trash service nonsense and go back to a free enterprise system. Oh, but wait, the county couldn't have their hands in our pockets if that happened.

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DaveEmanuel 1 year, 6 months ago

On current tax bills, storm water fees are broken out as "assessments", however, they are included with taxes within "Grand total Due This Billing" on the bottom line. That can and has caused some confusion amongst taxpayers, but the larger problem is restriction of citizen rights. Since HB 159 hasn't yet become law, its financial impact is a matter of conjecture. But financial considerations should not take precedence over citizen rights and options. Under the current system, a resident has no recourse if any of the services included on his or her tax bill are substandard. If the taxpayer elects to withhold payment as a means of encouraging disputed issues to be resolved, a lien will be placed against the subject property.

Citizens should have the ability to hold service providers accountable, even if those providers are contracted by or administered by government entities. HB 159 will ensure that they do.

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

Folks lets get real for just a minute:

1st) There is absolutely NOTHING that would prevent the BOC from voting on making the Storm Water Fee that sits on our tax bills into a tax - since it is so critical.
(Same for Trash BTW)

2nd) If the powers to be are simply afraid to vote a change and process it like it should be, then there are alternate budget sources that could outright eliminate all the feared collection expense, while giving the tax payer a HOLIDAY!

The amount quoted above seems to equal the line item in our Billion plus budget of funds given to a private organization called the Chamber of Commerce.

(It’s not the only amount of funds supplied by Gwinnett County Government Inc. either.)

It’s all about CHOICE, and in order to get back on track - we need to start with the basics of truth. Choice - is the Chamber more important now than Storm Water infrastructure?

What say you Mr. Or?

Please remember, like many of us out here, you may want BOTH but can only afford one right now due to reduced revenue in the near term.

Look at this another way, if you pay this "fee" on your tax bill, YOU are in fact paying forced dues to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce without any personal return. (Or even a discount at the state of the county luncheons)

I thought conservatives were against “forced union dues collection tactics”…

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 6 months ago

There is something that can prevent it...the voting citizens of the county! If these fees are so important, then roll them into the taxes and stop trying to kid everyone that they aren't taxes. While you are explaining why the taxes are being raised, perhaps it might force the county to reassess projects and spending and prioritize...like everyone else has to do their personal and business' budgets.

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Why_not 1 year, 6 months ago

I have always been somewhat confused about exactly what we pay this fee for. The storm drains in the street next to my driveway discharge about 80 feet away onto my property where it has been causing erosion damage for years. The county says they can't do anything about it because it's on private property. I told them I didn't want the discharge on my property anymore in that case and I was told it would continue as is.....period.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually they are wrong. When this "fee" went into effect, they are required to cover ALL drainage issues, not just in streets and easements. No one has challenged them yet is the issue.

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

Misrepresentation? Say it ain't so!

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R 1 year, 6 months ago

Well let’s try to see why governments might want to keep as many services they collect listed as “fees”. Besides not having to pass messy motions in executive sessions or face voters.

In the bond market when a jurisdiction sets out to borrow funds, let's say to finance a project like a stadium, the rating organizations are going to evaluate the finances - including ratios of taxes in effect against max levels available.

Why ? One reason might be because tax rates are the one sure thing that a government entity can use to backdrop cash-flow projection deficiencies down the line. The flusher the government body’s general fund, (meaning greater cash-flow reserves like a Trash-Plan pool) the greater buffer available to compensate for future reductions vs. projected returns.

This all contributes to a higher rank rating, thus lower borrowing costs. So we can carry more debt as a governing body because the firms don’t include “service fees” in that margin analysis.

Bottom line - the more that’s passed out in fees essentially means the tax rate increases are reserved to cover other project oppses…

You might see no difference in your world, but “Bond trips to NY” can be fun!

Sincerely,

Insubordinate!

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kayak 1 year, 6 months ago

The stormwater 'authority' recently came out to our neighborhood to replace a collapsed corrugated pipe under the stop-sign corner of my neighbor's corner lot. When they finally completed this simple job 3.5 muddy months - and countless phone calls - later, the two original opposing storm sewer catch basins (on opposite sides of the little 4-house side street that tees into my street) now had three additional catch basins installed, for a total of 5 catch basins within 50 feet of one another. All to service a little col-de-sac that has never seen more water than a garden hose could supply, running down its curbs. Not to mention that my side of the street, on the opposite side of where that little cul-de-sac tees into it, only has one catch basin for about 600 yards of pavement, and all the water flow is on our side of the street - a virtual river - every time it rains. I have never seen such a money wasting, illogical, common sense defying, engineering fiasco in all my days. Now THAT, my friends, is your government 'authority', and your tax dollars, at work......

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 6 months ago

NOT tax dollars. FEE dollars. Our BOC doesn't raise taxes.

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