Stormwater Fees To Be Added To Lake Wales Utility Bills
by James Coulter
Lake Wales residents will be paying a little bit extra on their monthly utility bills now that the city will be levying stormwater utility fees to help manage the city’s stormwater flow.
City commisioners approved the new stormwater utility rates through a unanimous vote of 5-0, approving an ordinance establishing the new rates and their assessment during their biweekly meeting on Feb. 5, 2019.
City residents are expected to pay anywhere between $3.13 to $8.21 per month, based upon calculations that will apply to each and every parcel of developed land within the city. These new fees will be applied within the next 60 to 90 days, explained James Slatton, Lake Wales Assistant City Manager.
These fees will be calculated based upon the classification of these designated land parcels within one of three categories: single-family residential, condominium, and general. For homeowners of single-family residential parcels, their fees will be calculated based upon the size of their house, and will be levied as thus:
- Less than 1,330 square feet: $37.58 annually ($3.13 monthly).
- Up to 2,840 square feet: $64.78 annually ($5.40 monthly).
- Up to 5,100 square feet: $98.47 annually ($8.21 monthly).
- More than 5,100 square feet: to be determined separately.
Other categories, including commercial, industrial, and multi-family properties, will have their fees assessed based upon separate calculations.
At least ten neighborhoods within the city will be exempt from these new fees, as they treat and maintain their own stormwater runoff through their own private on-site systems.
These neighborhoods include Carlsburg Estates, Dinner Lake Shores, Thousand Roses, Tower Lakes, Lake Ashton, Tower Gate Estates, Carillon Place Apartments, The Preserve at Lake Wales Apartments, Tower Point Apartments, and Wales Landing Apartments.
The new stormwater fees are expected to generate $591,919 annually for the city, and are anticipated to help meet the city’s revenue requirements of $700,774.
Previously, the city’s stormwater expenditures have been funded through the city’s transportation budget, which has also been used to fund street and sidewalk maintenance operations and capital improvement projects.
Unfortunately, due to declining revenues from the local option gas tax, the transportation budget has become underfunded and unable to facilitate the additional stormwater services, Slatton said.
This, along with the city’s growing need to address additional infrastructure for stormwater runoff, has required the city to consider a new dedicated revenue stream to fund stormwater services separately, Slatton said.
“A present need exists within Lake Wales to rehabilitate the existing stormwater infrastructure and to construct additional infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff,” he said. “Additionally, a needs exists to improve the water quality of our lakes due to the stormwater runoff entering into the lakes and lastly, a need exists to repair more city streets and sidewalks.”
Aside from increasing their level of service for stormwater management, the new stormwater utility rates will allow the transportation funds to be more easily spent on efforts to resurface more than half of the streets within the city limits through a six-year pavement management program, Slatton said.
Currently, the city does not have a stormwater department. As such, increased stormwater services will be managed and implemented using existing city staff, Slatton said.
“That’s not to say that we won’t down the road, but we don’t foresee a need at the current time,” he said. “About half of the funds generated from the stormwater fee will cover the costs of the stormwater work the City is already doing and paying for out of the transportation fund and the other half will cover the costs of needed capital improvement projects.”
The assessment for these new rates, as well as their plan for implementation, has been developed by Government Services Group, Inc. (GSG), which had been authorized to do so by the city through a professional services agreement in October 2017.
“GSG specializes in government finance and taxation issues, in working with cities, counties, special districts, and state agencies, to develop unique funding and service delivery solutions for critical infrastructure and service needs,” the statement for the ordinance read. “GSG has developed extensive experience in structuring and implementing alternative revenue sources in Florida.”
Though this assessment, the city expects to created a dedicated revenue stream for its stormwater services while freeing up funds for its transportation and infrastructure needs, Slatton explained.
“The expectations are that deferred stormwater maintenance and repair projects will be addressed, flooded roadways will be addressed, water quality in our lakes will be improved, and more city streets and sidewalks will be repaired,” he said.