A proposed “rain tax” in Gainesville to fund stormwater infrastructure upgrades is on indefinite hold as city officials have no plans to revisit the issue until after budget negotiations wrap up in June.
“We have been focused on the overall city budget, but we will need to have this discussion,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said. “I would anticipate more discussion on this later in the year.”
City officials voted down a fee structure in December after business owners and residents objected.
And with two new council members coming aboard in January, plus a new director of the Department of Water Resources, some officials said postponing the program’s implementation made sense.
But that means plans to impose a fee by January 2017 are likely to be pushed back a year or more.
“We’ve had no more conversations about it,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.
Meetings with business owners and additional public hearings are necessary, officials said.
“We want to give our businesses and everybody ... time to adjust and get it into their budget,” Dunagan said, adding that any fee likely to be approved would be lower than first proposed.
Officials have warned that aging pipes, costly road washouts and new state and federal water quality regulations have prompted the need for a self-sustaining fee program.
The original stormwater fee proposal called for charging $1 for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on residential, commercial, nonprofit and government property.
Churches, hospitals and even government buildings will be subject to the new fee.
Only federal, state, county and city roads and rights of way are exempt.
There are more than 124 million square feet of impervious surfaces in Gainesville alone, and the fees could generate about $1.5 million in revenue in the first year.
Councilman Zack Thompson, owner of two local businesses, said finalizing a city budget for the next year is the starting point for any new talks on the proposal.
“We want to see where the numbers are before we make a decision on that,” he said. “In my opinion, it goes all the way back to the drawing board.”
Getting back to square one also entails developing a project list, prioritizing those projects, and then figuring out how much each one costs.
“As a business owner, I want to know what I’m getting and what I’m paying for and where the money is going to come from,” Thompson said.