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We evaluate the rates of all our utilities every year, and only recommend increases as needed to support the operation of that utility. We will also continue to pursue every grant that we can to help offset future increases.
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The stormwater base fee, implemented in 2012, is to pay for stormwater department employees and day to day operations, which include street sweeping and cleaning/maintaining stormwater pipes and drains. The stormwater user fee is to fund capital improvement projects for the utility. These projects range from replacement of failing or failed stormwater pipes and drains to installing new stormwater pipe and drainage systems within city limits.
In 2012 Stormwater was designated as a separate utility with dedicated funds—like City Water and Electric Utility—with the implementation of the base fee as a funding source for maintenance and operation of the already existing stormwater system. Prior to the implementation of the base fee, maintenance and repairs of the stormwater system were paid through Ad Valorem taxes.
The stormwater user fee was implemented in 2020 as a dedicated funding source for stormwater capital improvement projects.
The base fee has not increased from $3.50 since 2015, and cost of operations, employee salary, and fuel has gone up since. Now, the City needs to replace a stormwater utility Vac-Con truck bought in 2008. The increase in base fees will also help pay for annual payments for financing the purchase of a new truck.
When the user fee was established in 2020 it was to finance $750,000 worth of capital improvements annually. For the fee to reach that amount every year, the user fee was recommended to be $250 per ESU (Equivalent Stormwater Unit) annually or $20.83 per month. However, the rate was adopted at $125 annually or $10.42 per month--half of what was needed to fund capital projects--because City Council at the time did not want to overburden residents with a high fee at the very start of implementation. Due to the current economic climate with inflation and supply chain issues, the cost of capital projects has almost doubled such that the annual need is now an average of $1.35 million per year for stormwater capital projects. To fully fund these projects, the fee per ESU would need to be approximately $500 annually or $41.67 per month. City Council voted to increase to $300 per ESU annually, or $25 per month, to balance giving stormwater capital improvement projects a boost in funding while not overburdening residents with an extremely high fee increase.
At the current rate of $3.50 the base fee has struggled to pay for department employees and day to day operations since it was implemented in 2012.
The User fee has only been collected in FY 2021 and FY 2022 – two years—and has primarily been reserved to fund the West Street project. However, we have used a portion of the user fees to complete emergency repairs on Olive Street, West Street, and Bonaventure Avenue as well as to design improvements on Julia Street.
The base fee increase will continue to pay for employees, day to day operations, and a new stormwater utility Vac-Con truck.
The user fee increase, in combination with addition sources of financing, will help the City complete more stormwater capital improvement projects faster. Below is the breakdown of the next ten years of stormwater capital improvement projects scheduled by priority. These projects are separated by City Budget Fiscal Year (October 1 – September 30).
West Street Drainage Project: Replacing stormwater pipes and sidewalk along West Street from Walnut Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Anticipated to be complete in FY 2024 with a total cost of $2.2 million, with $333, 000 funded by Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Small Cities Development Block Grant Program.
Julia Street Stormwater Project: Upgrading stormwater systems and replacing pipes along Julia Street from Sunset Avenue to the end of the street at Governors Creek. Anticipated to begin construction in FY 2025 with an estimated construction cost of $1 million.
Park and Bayard Drainage Project: Replacing failing pipes and inlets along St. Johns Avenue and Bayard Street including installation of a new headwall at the end of the Bayard Street right-of-way at the St. Johns River. Anticipated to begin construction in FY 2025 with an estimated construction cost of $700,000. A $318,000 grant is included in that cost.
Clay Street Storm Basin Project: Replacing stormwater pipes and repairing river bulkhead along Clay Street from Magnolia Avenue to the St. Johns River as well as connecting streets. Anticipated to begin construction in FY 2026 with cost of construction is $2 million.
Ferris Street Storm Basin Project: Replacing stormwater pipes along Ferris Street and connecting streets. Anticipated total of design and construction is $275,000.
Roberts Street Project: Replacing stormwater pipe and drainage structures. Anticipated total cost of design and construction is $400,000.
Cove Subdivision Pipe Lining Project: Lining stormwater pipes to extend the life of current pipe system. Anticipated design and construction cost total is $1.2 million.
Highland and Oakridge Stormwater Project: Installing new stormwater piping and stormwater pond on Highland and Oakridge from Walnut Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Anticipated to be complete over the course of FY 2028 and FY 2029 with anticipated design and construction cost total at $3.5 million.
Esplanade Avenue Stormwater Project: Replacing stormwater pipe along Esplanade Avenue. Anticipated cost of design and construction total is $850,000
South Highland Avenue Project: Upgrading stormwater systems with anticipated total cost of design and construction at $800,000.
Walnut Street and Vermont Avenue Project: Installing new stormwater piping and pond at an anticipated total cost of design and construction at $1 million.
Vermont Avenue South Project: Upgrading stormwater systems with an anticipated total cost of design and construction at $1.1 million.
Gum Street Headwall Improvements: Anticipated total cost of design and construction is $70,000
Lewis Street Headwall Project: Constructing new headwall with anticipated total cost of design and construction at $300,000
Elmore Street Headwall Project: Constructing new headwall with anticipated total cost of design and construction at $300,000