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Find Out Florida: What’s With Alachua County’s Stormwater Assessment Fee?

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This story is part of Find Out Florida, a WUFT News series built from your questions. A listener asked us, “What is the new storm runoff fee Alachua County wants to charge? Is there a new problem dealing with runoff? Why not just raise property taxes?”

Alachua County commissioners voted 4-1 this week to implement a stormwater assessment fee.

The new fee applies to property owners outside of the Gainesville city limits. It will raise an estimated $1.3 million to create projects that restore clean water and prevent flooding. Alachua County Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird said the fee is evenly spread among residents.

“We believe that this assessment more equally distributes the cost of the county managing stormwater to where the benefit is and who’s contributing to the stormwater,” he said.

The fee varies based on home size with a medium-sized home costing $30 dollars a year.

A fee based on the size of your home? While that might sound similar to a property tax increase, Bird said there is a difference between the two.

“For most people, it’s a charge either way, but there’s a legal distinction,” he said, explaining the stormwater assessment fee is a non-ad valorem assessment. “That means it’s not based on the value of the property, but on the stormwater runoff the property creates.”

Bird also said the fee will dedicate money to meet the county’s obligation to manage stormwater instead of using the gas tax. Many residents expressed their opposition to a separate fee. Gale Murray lives in Alachua County said the new fee is a burden on the less fortunate.

“This community has a lot of people who are retired, that are disabled, that cannot afford $30 more, because to them, that’s a couple of days’ food,” she said.

The assessment fee includes exemptions for farms, non-profits, veterans, and low-income property owners. Otherwise, expect to see the annual fee added to tax bills in 2018.

This story emerged from an audience question. Submit your curiosities to Find Out Florida, and we’ll find the answer. Preference is given to those who include at least their first name.

About Arnae Holcomb

Arnae is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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