The City Council of the city of Powder Springs is set to vote on the dollar amount of the already-approved Stormwater Management Utility “Fee” on Monday at the regularly scheduled council meeting.
There are things you need to know about this so-called “fee,” which I have called a tax—a tax based on the rain that falls on our property. Will we be taxed later on the number of trees that are on our property because the wind blows the leaves into the streets?
The city says this is not a tax because it is not based on the value of the properties involved. I would disagree to the extent that the size of commercial buildings and churches, for example, and the parking areas adjacent to them reflect the value of the overall property.
Since these properties (churches, non-profits and commercial) will pay the “fee” based on the square footage of roofs, parking areas and other impervious surfaces, there is a relationship between the size and value of the property and the “fee” that will be paid. By the city’s definition, this “fee” is a tax.
Further, it is interesting that there is a provision of the zoning ordinance for the city that dictates a church must have a certain amount of land and paved parking—and now the mayor and council want to tax churches for having paved parking.
Most people are aware that the “fee” the city is proposing is $2 monthly for all residences to be paid annually with the property tax bill. While I still feel this is excessive to the city’s needs (they only paid $81,000 in Stormwater Management expenses in fiscal year 2010 and will collect more than $235,000 for 2012 calendar year) it is not overly expensive ($24 per year for 2012) to most residential property owners.
The problem comes from the additional amounts to be charged to churches, non-profits (like the American Legion) and business properties. Based on the square footage of the roofs and parking areas of these folks, the “fee” will likely be a multiple of $2 per month.
The American Legion is looking at more than $300 per year added to its expenses. There is at least one church on Marietta Street which will see a “fee” of more than $3,000 per year. With the first “fee,” due by the end of March 2012, and the 2013 “fee” coming on the property tax bill in the fall of 2012, two “fees” will need to be paid in 2012.
It should be noted that the current proposal is to increase the “fee” amount in increments of 50 cents each year until the rate climbs to $4 per month paid annually—$48 per year or an estimated $472,000 taken in by the city each year. What will that church on Marietta Street pay then? More than $6,000 per year?
Where do churches get the money to pay these fees? Where do non-profits and businesses get money to pay their expenses? The short answer: It comes from you.
Consider this: If you own a home within the city limits, you are going to pay $24 for 2012. If you attend church in the city, you will need to increase your giving in proportion to the amount the church will be charged—the number of members supporting the church will decide the additional amount each will pay.
And if you shop in the city, the additional expense to the store will have to be passed on to each customer in the form of higher prices or, at best, less discounts. How much extra comes from your pocket depends on how much you support your local businesses. You get a triple “fee”. And then double that since two “fees” must be paid in 2012.
We’re in a recession right now. Extra money is not easy to come by, and there are many personal and household expenses that must have high priority.
Why should I pay more in the city of Powder Springs for the same item that I can buy cheaper in Hiram, for example, since a Hiram business doesn’t have to pay this additional “fee”?
I support local businesses and buy locally when I can. I eat at Johnny’s, Los Portales, Pomarico’s and other restaurants in town. Increasing our businesses’ expenses in this economy is a bad idea, and creating a “business-friendly” environment for our businesses seems to be taking a back seat to handling the city’s budget problems.
Call and talk to the mayor and members of your City Council. Churches, non-profits and businesses can call 770-943-1666 and ask for Kim Peterson to find out what their “fee” is scheduled to be under the current proposal.
At the council meeting scheduled for Monday (the night before the election), you can sign up for the public comment and tell the mayor and council directly how this “fee” is going to affect you and your family, as well as your church and shopping habits. (You might even ask that the vote on the amount be tabled until all parties are provided with the amount of their “fee”; most churches and business won’t know their individual amount until they get a separate bill before the end of 2011.)
Monday’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Community Development building, may well be your last chance before the vote is taken to set the amount of the new tax that you will be paying for years to come.
—Ra Barr, Powder Springs