Fayette County property owners hit with new fee
Owners of an “average” size homestead in unincorporated Fayette County will face a new $25.20 annual fee as part of the new stormwater utility adopted on a 3-2 vote of the Fayette County Commission Sept. 22.
Some residents will pay more, others less. But the new fee is not limited to homeowners. Since it’s a fee, rather than a tax, it will be paid for by businesses, churches, schools and all property owners regardless of the property’s use.
The fee will vary based on the total amount of impervious surface on a given lot, which includes not just buildings such as the home and garage, but also the paved driveway, parking lot, porches, decks and the like. The idea is that non-porous surfaces cause additional run-off of rainfall beyond the property limits that contributes to the need for stormwater collection systems.
The fee will only be assessed on properties in the unincorporated county, as Fayetteville and Peachtree City already have their own stormwater utilities, and Tyrone, Brooks and Woolsey have not elected to start their own stormwater utility.
Fayette’s stormwater fee is based on charging 35 cents per month for each 1,000 square feet of impervious surface. The revenues are estimated to be $1.93 million over the first three years of the fee.
The utility and fee were adopted on a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty voting against.
Currently the county’s stormwater operations are funded by the general fund budget.
While the average home will pay about $25 a year, a business with 25,000 square feet of impervious surface will pay about $123 a year, county officials said.
The new utility will fund a full inspection of the county’s stormwater system, particularly focusing on stormwater pipes running underneath roads which are in poor condition.
The county this week had to close Kirkley Road north of Tyrone for an indefinite period due to the severely degraded condition of stormwater pipes underneath the road, which are threatening to collapse, according to county staff.
The county earlier this year set aside funding to replace the stormwater pipes on Kirkley Road.
The new utility does not, however, include a capital budget for pipe replacement, as the commission will later have to decide whether to fund such items out of the general fund or perhaps increasing the stormwater fee at a later date.
Unlike a previous proposal, the trimmed down budget approved by the commission includes no new staff. The new fee will pay for four existing full-time employees including the environmental programs engineer, two environmental technicians and one engineering technician. It will also pay half the salary of the county’s stormwater director.
The stormwater utility will offer a chance for property owners to gain credits, which will discount one’s bill for taking certain actions such as the use of rain barrels, septic tank maintenance and the implementation of water resources education programs, the latter of which will provide a 50 percent discount for schools’ stormwater bills.
Discounts are also offered for “low impact” parcels of two acres and five acres or more. Those discounts will be applied automatically, whereas the other various credits must be applied for by each individual property owner.
The county plans to begin charging the stormwater fee in January.
County resident Dennis Chase urged the commission to postpone its decision since the public hasn’t had a chance to digest the drastically scaled back plan for stormwater services over the next three years.
“There were $18 million in projects,” Chase said as he addressed the commission during the public comment portion of the meeting. “What happened? What we got is a three-year study to find out where those things are.”