Faced with the prospect of charging a monthly storm water runoff fee to offset drainage into local creeks and streams, a storm water committee decided not to levy the fee at least until next year.
“This is a one-year shot,” said Villa Rica City Manager Larry Wood. “We will continue to talk about it.”
The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has recommended that all water authorities in metro Atlanta add a monthly storm water runoff fee to their bills. The planning district, along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, is in charge of licensing water and sewer plants.
The city is reviewed every three to five years by the Department of Natural Resources.
The Villa Rica government, for now, will take the fees out of its general fund, which is what Mayor J. Collins has advocated. Collins feels the fee essentially is a new tax by another name.
Previously, the money came from the city’s water and sewer fund.
Catherine Fox of Fox Environmental made a presentation to the City Council this month, providing figures and information about a potential storm water utility.
If added, the fee will range between $2 and $4 per month per household, with businesses charged roughly by the size of their parking lot.
Fox’s presentation showed estimated figures that a $2 monthly fee would raise $209,304 per year, with a $4 fee raising $418,608 annually. Figures were also provided for monthly fees of $2.50, $3 and $3.50.
“Eventually everyone who has developed property (including the city) has to pay for storm water management,” read one of Fox’s slides.
“Storm water is a problem in Villa Rica,” read another. “We need a storm water program that addresses long-term needs instead of patchwork fixes.”
Credits against the fees could be given for things such as pond maintenance, public education programs, green space/water quality, detention, erosion/channel protection or floodplain management.
But for now, the fee itself remains in the discussion phase.
Douglas County current charges a fee of $4 to each of its residential water customers. The fee is charged to the owner of a property rather than the tenant, and is a flat fee assessed evenly, regardless of house or lot size.
Villa Rica residents who live in Douglas County don’t pay the county’s fee.
“We are looking at between $2 and $4 per customer,” Wood said. “That fits in the range of what people who do this close to us, like Douglas County, pay. It’s not something new for people in this area.”
One other option that may be able to account for the storm water runoff is paying for it through the millage rate. Wood said an increase in the city millage right is extremely unlikely, but it is possible the fee could be paid for by not reducing the millage rate.
“The City Council, with a vote of three or more, can approve increasing the millage rate less than one mill to cover the whole cost of the program,” said Wood. “Administratively, that’s a lot cheaper than us setting up a brand-new utility.”