Originally created 10/03/00

Sunset stormwater fee



President Bill Clinton says Americans should not "let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

That glib line is the principle that well-meaning Columbia County commissioners are operating under with their proposed new stormwater tax - er - "fee."

The county has an urban stormwater utility district and is charging property owners a fee based on the amount of a property's impervious surface - any area into which water does not seep. The revenue generated will fund drainage and flood-control projects.

Let's first admit that this fee is unfair; some residents will pay, some won't. But flooding is a knotty and growing problem, and the district idea seems the best commissioners could come up with.

A main wrinkle, though, is that the Board of Education is unhappy. It calls this "double taxation," and its attorney argues that when school buildings are charged that's double-taxing residents who already pay property assessment.

Commission Chairman Pat Farr vehemently labels this the wrong legal interpretation, and counters that other communities and states utilize this fee without challenge.

No matter how that flap, plays, though, there is hope this fee can fade like a sunset. We agree with Farr that local option sales tax monies should pay for future stormwater work. Right now, that is against the law. So Farr has talked with Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, about changing the law to allow such funding when the local option tax is renewed in five years.

At that time, when sales tax money equitably funds stormwater projects, the Commission can then vote to kill this current stormwater fee.