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Date of Issue: September 24, 2008

City seeks stormwater funds from schools

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger wants to collect stormwater fees from the Manatee County School Board.

But the school board’s position is that the charges amount to stormwater assessments, and the district doesn’t pay stormwater assessments.

For the past four years, the city has billed stormwater charges to the district for the four parcels of property that make up the Anna Maria Elementary School grounds.

A review of the records at the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office indicates that the school district’s stormwater charges from Holmes Beach are unpaid for 2003 through 2007.

Specifically, the tax collector’s office shows unpaid amounts of:

  • $1,506.50 for 2003, $1,356.68 for 2004, $1,206.86 for 2005, $1,057.05 for 2006 and $907.23 for 2007 for 4700 Gulf Drive. The total for the property is $6,034.32.
  • $168.76 for 2003, $151.98 for 2004, $135.20 for 2005, $118.41 for 2006 and 101.63 for 2007 for 214 Harbor Lane. The total for the property is $675.98.
  • $168.76 for 2003, $151.98 for 2004, $135.20 for 2005, $118.41 for 2006 and $101.63 for 2007 for 210 Harbor Lane. The total for the property is $675.98.
  • $170.72 for 2003, $153.74 for 2004, $136.76 for 2006 and $119.79 for 2007 for 206 Harbor Lane. The total for the property is $581.01.

“The ad valorem taxes are completely exempt, but the non-ad valorem tax, such as stormwater, was not exempted,” said Sara Ackley with the tax collector’s office.

Asked about the unpaid amounts, school district spokesperson Margi Nanney researched the issue with financial, legal and energy personnel.

The conclusion came from school board attorney John Bowen, who said school district does not pay stormwater assessments.

Bowen cited a court ruling in a dispute between the city of Clearwater and a local college as precedence.

An advisory legal opinion from the Florida Attorney General’s Office that predates the ruling from a Pinellas court indicates that municipalities can collect stormwater fees from other government entities based upon use of the system.

The advisory opinion states, “While state property used for public purposes is not generally subject to taxes or special assessments, the state may be liable for charges for services it uses.”

Rick Ashley, Holmes Beach city treasurer, noted that the stormwater charges are not anything the city itself doesn’t pay.

“The city of Holmes Beach has been billed by the tax collector and has paid $2,040.08 each year since 2003,” he said.

Bohnenberger, maintaining that the district should pay the overdue charges, said, “The bottom line is, this isn’t a tax.”