The city of Anniston plans to charge local property owners an annual fee starting in September to help cover maintenance costs for the city's aging stormwater system.
During the Anniston City Council's work session Monday, City Manager Brian Johnson said the city plans to enact the fees by Sept. 30 on residential and most non-residential property owners. The fees, which the Calhoun County Department of Revenue will include on annual property tax bills, could provide a steady source of money to help maintain and repair Anniston's deteriorating stormwater drainage system.
Johnson said the City Council is set to vote on the fees in its Monday meeting. In the meantime, the council gave Johnson the go-ahead during its recent work session to set up the fee structure with the Revenue Department.
The fees are possible through a state law passed in April, which among other things allows cities to recover some of the costs associated with federal stormwater runoff regulations. The city plans to charge the maximum allowed — $10 per year for residential property owners and one half of one cent per square feet for non-residential property owners, capped at $3,000 per year.
The law only applies if a structure exists on the property and it exempts utilities and agriculture from the fee.
"We estimate this will generate $300,000 per year for stormwater and drainage," Johnson said of the fees, adding that an ordinance will be created forbidding the use of the money for anything other than drainage.
The state law also requires the fees be imposed through county revenue departments on annual property tax bills. Calhoun County's revenue department will issue the next property tax bills in September, said Karen Roper, the county revenue commissioner.
"We've been working on it for a month or so now," Roper said of the new fees. "We have to work on a new program to have that added to the tax bills."
Roper said Tuesday that her department was still waiting on exact fee structure from the city to charge property owners.
"They have to determine the amount for each parcel and bring it to us," Roper said.
The city's stormwater system is in varying degrees of decay. Most of Anniston's drainage pipes are made of corrugated metal that have rusted, deteriorated and been neglected over the years. In the past year, sinkholes have spread through Anniston due to collapsing drainage pipes. City officials have estimated all the sinkhole repair costs could exceed $500,000 by the end of 2014.
"We need every little bit we can get to maintain our drainage," Johnson said of the fee money.
Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of BR Williams Trucking in Oxford, said his business operates two large warehouses in Anniston. One warehouse is 341,000 square feet and the other is 560,000 square feet, meaning BR Williams stands to pay a total of $6,000 a year more in property taxes based on the new fees, Brown said.
"Nobody likes taxes to go up, but you'd like to at least see it applied in a fair manner," Brown said. "I think they have probably come up with a method that is as fair as it can possibly be."