The stormwater utility fee planned by the city of Jamestown is causing some organizations to question where the money to pay the new fee will come from.
Doug Hogan, director of the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department, said his department had been informed it will owe the city about $16,250 per year for fees on parks, recreational facilities and Hillcrest Golf Course.
"Obviously we'll work it in here," he said, referring to the 2020 budget being developed now. "Obviously the budget will go up and the taxpayers will be paying for it."
Hogan particularly questioned the stormwater utility fee of $523 per year for Pepper's Dog Park and property owned by Parks and Recreation adjacent to it. The property is next to and drains directly into the James River. It is also used by the Jamestown Street Department during the winter to store snow hauled from Jamestown streets.
Unlike the city property tax which is not collected from other governments, churches and some commercial property exempted for economic development purposes, this fee is to be paid by everyone. Councilman Dan Buchanan said at a recent Jamestown City Council meeting that the fee was intended to make every parcel that contributes water to the drainage system pay to maintain that system.
The proposed fee was set at $3 per month for residential properties. Fees for commercial properties are based on the size of the property and its use. Each category of use, such as parks or churches, for example, is assigned a factor that ultimately determines the stormwater utility fee they will pay per acre.
The plan was to implement the fee in July and include it in utility bills sent to Jamestown residents in August and paid in September.
Letters were sent to non-residential property owners in June informing them of the amount they would be charged for the stormwater utility fee.
That included Temple Baptist Church, which was informed it would be charged $121 per month for its property.
"It seems higher than we expected," said David Patzer, church elder. "We need to understand the fee better. We don't even have pavement in our parking lot."
Jamestown Public School District is also dealing with the fee. Robert Lech, superintendent of the district, said the fee for all school properties in Jamestown totals $10,597 per year. Because Jamestown Public Schools is levying the maximum it can in property taxes, the new fee will contribute to deficit spending estimated at $124,000 for the next school year.
Ultimately, one of the biggest payers of the stormwater utility fee will be the city of Jamestown. Sarah Hellekson, city administrator, said the city will pay $3,150 per month in its own fees. Stormwater fees on general use city property such as City Hall or the fire stations would be paid from the city's general fund which receives most of its funding from property tax.
Stormwater fees on city property used to provide services such as water, sewer or sanitation would be paid from the operating funds of those departments.
Discussion on the ramifications of the city stormwater fee began Monday when Katie Hemmer, manager of Jamestown Regional Airport, brought to the board's attention that the agricultural land owned by the airport would pay a fee of about $3,800 per month.
She asked the City Council to remove the fee on the ag land at the airport out of concern the fee would cause cash flow problems for the airport.
Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said a problem existed but could be solved.
"The process has taken way longer than it should have," he said. "We still don't have information to make decisions."
Heinrich acknowledged it may be too late to implement the fee as of July 1 but said the fee is important to stabilizing the city's budget.
"The truth is the city is facing significant financial challenges," he said. "... The $590,000 (projected 2020 revenue from the stormwater utility fund) will not balance the budget."
A second reading of the ordinance creating the stormwater utility fee program passed the City Council unanimously at the July 1 meeting. A resolution adopting the fee structure for the fee was tabled until a special City Council meeting at a date to be determined.