Tampa City Council approves increase in stormwater fees

Tribune staff
Published: September 3, 2015 | Updated: September 4, 2015 at 05:52 AM

Bayshore Boulevard flooding

Yearly assessments for stormwater services will go up from $36 to $82 for the owner of an average size home in Tampa, the first hike in a decade. Tampa City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the increase, the proceeds of which will be used to increase the frequency of street sweeping and the clearing of ditches and outfalls.

A more difficult vote still looms, however, with council members scheduled to discuss on Oct. 1 introducing a new “improvement assessment” that would tack on another $98 a year for most city homeowners. The new tax, which likely would be phased in, would raise $251 million over 30 years to go toward major drainage projects intended to reduce flooding across the city.

The hit to pocketbooks from the increased stormwater service fee will be more immediate, with the new rate set to be included in property tax bills that residents will receive later this year. The new rate will increase the city’s stormwater yearly revenue from $6.4 million to about $14.2 million and mean streets can be swept every 60 days instead of the current 90-day cycle.

Ditches will be cleaned every seven years instead of every 10, and outfalls, currently only serviced every 15 years, will now be cleaned every five years under the city’s plan. Tackling the city’s flood-prone areas has become more pressing since an 11-day deluge that left parts of Tampa under several feet of water. Council members say many residents now want the city to take action. Still, the mailing of notices to homes detailing new maximum assessments led to a rash of complaints to the city’s stormwater department and dozens of residents lobbying the council at a recent meeting. By contrast, only a handful of residents attended the public hearing on the service fee increase.

John Moll of Southwest Seminole said he should not be charged any stormwater fees because his property has a retention pond that captures any storm runoff. “It’s the principle of being charged for something you’re not getting,” he said. Stormwater fees for homeowners are based on the size of their house. The calculation that the city is using for non-residential properties and condo and apartment dwellers is based on the amount of impervious surfaces on each parcel. That has resulted in big potential increases for churches and businesses like car dealerships that have a lot of paved areas leading to dozens of complaints to the city’s stormwater department.

Mike Peterson of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors said he hopes council members will address these concerns before they agree on introducing the additional assessment. “This fee I believe you are about to pass is based on a methodology a lot of people have concerns with,” he said.