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Date of Issue: April 02, 2008

Holmes Beach considers fee increase

Stormwater utility fees may go up about $12-$18 a year for Holmes Beach homeowners.

The city commission, during a work session March 25, tentatively endorsed raising the monthly fees from $3 per “equivalent residential unit” to $4.50 per ERU. The rate is a monthly fee, but paid annually with property taxes.

“A good many people pay less than one ERU,” said city treasurer Rick Ashley, who said the fees fund stormwater-related capital improvements and not maintenance. Ashley added that general funds also help pay for improvements.

In 2003, the city hired Banks Engineering to conduct a master drainage study. The review resulted in the identification of 13 drainage basins where improvements were needed.

To date, the city has completed three projects and has a fourth in progress in the vicinity of 57th Street, according to public works superintendent Joe Duennes.

Additional improvements are planned for basins near 34th Street, Manatee Public Beach, Flotilla Drive, 63rd Street, 74th Street, north Holmes Beach and the “East Finger Canals.” The total estimated cost of the planned improvements is $1.6 million.

The estimated expense, Ashley said, is conservative and past projects always have cost “more than anticipated.”

When the city adopted its plan for improvements, it also implemented a stormwater utility rate - the $3 monthly ERU fee.

Ashley said that fee no longer is adequate. He proposed several options - a $4 monthly ERU fee to generate $193,333 a year, a $5 monthly ERU fee to generate $241,666 a year or a $6 monthly ERU to generate $290,000 a year.

“The mayor asked me to look into what we need to do,” Ashley told commissioners during their March 25 meeting.

With the passage of the Amendment 1 property tax reform measure in January and the potential for additional legislative limits this year, Holmes Beach “is going to be looking at money issues in the future,” Ashley said.

“It’s not going to be a fun year and we’re going to be facing some serious decisions this summer,” Ashley added.

One proposal before the state’s tax commission would put a cap on such fee increases. In fact, the proposal - the Taxpayer Bill of Rights - would cap most government revenues, from parking ticket fines to utility fees to property taxes.

The commission discussed the options and arrived at a $4.50 fee to generate about $215,000 a year.

“We need to keep this stormwater project going,” said Sandy Haas-Martens, the commission chair. “It’s important we get this done.”

“It’s one of the biggest complaints we have,” said Commissioner David Zaccagnino, referring to drainage problems in the city.

Commissioners Pat Morton and Pat Geyer agreed - and it was Geyer who suggested a $4.50 fee.

The commissioners agreed to take up the issue at a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.