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Palm Coast Hints at Again Increasing Monthly Stormwater Fee As It Projects Fund Deficits

| June 8, 2016

palm coast stormwater fees

Palm Coast crews graded 4,228 feet of residential swales last week (Palm Coast)

Four years ago the Palm Coast City Council approved a 46 percent increase in the monthly stormwater fee homeowners pay–from $8 a month to $11.65 a month, or $140 a year. Undeveloped lots pay $103.45 a year. Commercial properties generally pay more. The fee, supplemented in small part by property taxes and levied on 50,000 customers since 2004, generates an estimated $7.8 million this year to maintain the city’s swale and drainage system, which includes some 150 miles of ditches and 1,200 miles of swales.

But the city is vastly increasing capital spending and employee costs in its stormwater operations, and is heading for deficits.

In capital spending, it’s gone from $1.6 million in 2013 to $1.7 million in 2014 to $2.5 million in 2015. Proposed capital spending this year was at $2.2 million. In personnel costs, according to the city’s budget, it’s gone from around $800,000 in 2013 and 2014 to $1.9 million in 2015, a 1,375 percent increase, even though the stormwater management fund shows no personnel increase in 2014, an increase of just two full-time positions in 2015, and a decrease of five positions this year. Operating expenses, however, have declined from $3.7 million in 2014 to $2.6 million this year.

During a brief budget presentation to the city council Tuesday, council members were told that the stormwater fund is projecting a substantial deficit of more than $1 million a year starting with next year’s budget, and growing to a $1.5 million deficit by 2012.

“One of the other issues with stormwater,” Chris Quinn, the city’s finance director, told the city council Tuesday evening, “unlike with our utility revenues and our impact fees, is there’s no indexing for the fee, so every year we lose a little bit to inflation because the fee stays the same, it doesn’t really change with inflation like our other fees, which is something else we’ll be bringing in future workshops to talk to the city council about.”

palm coast stormwater fee tax funding forecast

The forecast council members saw Tuesday evening, from a slide prepared by the administration for a budget presentation. It differs significantly from the forecast in the current budget the council adopted last fall. Click on the image for larger view.

“Now this is pretty quick, next year, it looks like we’re going to be in a deficit there,” Steven Nobile, the council member said, indicating some concern with the projected increase. “Are we going to look at that in this right now in the budget to see how we can reduce that?” He was not favoring closing the gap with a fee increase, or at least not exclusively with a fee increase. Rather, he said, the city could rearrange its capital projects to scale back spending on stormwater.

“What we’ve been doing is each year during the budget process, we know that there’s that gap, and we’ve been trying to work through that bgap during each year’s budget process,” Quinn said.

The city’s numbers can be quite fluid. For example, it is projecting those deficits despite assuming that stormwater fee revenue will increase by 0.5 percent, based on the assumption of new customers paying the fee. But the city’s 2016 approved budget puts that assumption at a 1 to 2 percent growth rate; why the graph shown council members Tuesday showed an assumption of 0.5 percent instead was left unexplained. The graph was also at variance from the current approved budget’s projections, which put spending in 2019 and 2020 at $1 million less each year than in the projection before council members Tuesday evening. Absent that $1 million difference, the deficit is virtually erased. In other words, if the graph shown council members Tuesday evening had reflected figures their own current, approved budget reflects, there would be almost no deficit.

Last year stormwater operations rebuilt 55 miles of residential swales and 366 miles of drainage ditches and cleared 4,100 residential culvert pipes, among other initiatives. “Several public presentations were made and numerous one‐on‐one discussions were conducted with residents to increase their understanding of the functionality of their own neighborhood stormwater system,” the city’s budget document states. “As a result of this proactive program, our city Customer Service division feels that the number and intensity of swale complaints have decreased.”

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19 Responses for “Palm Coast Hints at Again Increasing Monthly Stormwater Fee As It Projects Fund Deficits”

  1. Shrek says:

    55 miles, the citizens would laugh if they knew the truth of how mismanaged the stormwater department is. Along with engineering.

  2. lawrence says:

    What ever happened to all those fees that ITT that use to collect for those swale’s. And that used to get sued for not cleaning ALL those swales in Palm Coast. And now the City of Palm Coast is in on the band wagon,and increasing fees. For something you hardly ever see get done. Try cleaning the swales you already got paid for…………….

  3. Mary Lynn Crosby says:

    Maybe start with raising the empty lot fee to the same level homeowners pay. A swale is a swale whether a house is on the lot or not.

  4. Nicholas Pavlov says:

    What a joke this swale program is. 5 years ago they “dug” out mine, when in reality all they did was scratch the surface just enough to pull up my beautiful St. Augustine grass and cut the cable to my house. The best part was after my wife called to tell me about the cable being cut and I had to leave work to confront the crew about it, the only English speaking person there denied cutting the cable. The following day it was fixed and they replaced my lawn with bahaia sod that was infested with weeds and within a month my entire lawn died .

  5. downinthelab says:

    Save the swales!!!!

  6. Sue says:

    If Flagler county keeps increasing rates retirees ate going to continue to go to states south Carolina

  7. Rich Mikola says:

    Great job, Palm Coast! After the city ‘fixed’ my swale, I had to pay $600.00 (so far) to prevent my driveway from cracking and my lawn from washing away. No problems for 12 years and then they ‘fixed’ it.

  8. Tired says:

    Mr Quinn gets quite creative with his figures under Mr Landons direction. The two highest paid employees in the Stormwater/Engineering Department are no longer there. Now they’re absorbing salaries from other departments that have been “merged”. I don’t see an increase in service, seems like there ought to be some accountability but hey, my comment won’t even make it online so go figure.

  9. Flatsflyer says:

    Since 2009 the swales on my street has been redone 3 times because the Swales simply don’t work. Each time the city has made the problem worse. I live at the end of a Cul de Sac, our end of the street is lower than the other end where water is suppose to drain. The street is 900 feet long and with the minimum grade to allow water to drain, the swale at the start of the street would have to be 8 feet deep.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out water will not run uphill. We keep pestering the city to put a drain, catch basin, into the canal at our end of the street. No, the city can’t do this because of various regulations. Guess what, we have look around and found at least 50 other streets that where built originally with the same solution we have proposed. The city is simply too dumb to fix a problem for $5,000. permanently, they would rather spend $25,000. every other year and not solve the problem but rather make it worse. I can easily understand why the costs are the way they are, stupid people doing stupid things does not provide either short term or long term solutions. Until we get people who have an IQ above freezing, I anticipate swales will continue to be a cash cow.

  10. DaveT says:

    I wish the county would follow the city’s example and come out a clean out these culvert lines that are covered up by years of dirt and weeds.

  11. woody says:

    Maybe new rules of no parking in the swales will heip.Ruts are left after heavy rain and packing it down when it is dry.The city can use code enforcement fines to help fund repairs.I see cars,trucks,trailers day after day parked there.

  12. Richard Bossen says:

    How much of the storm water swale fund went under the table to fund the city hall? Would the fund
    stand up under a forensic audit?
    Any response from city management?

  13. starryidgirl says:

    One of the first cost-cutting measures they should take is to eliminate that ridiculous, very expensive four page glossy brochure that they send with our billing invoices.

  14. Puzzled says:

    I really don’t understand how some people have had their swales done at all. I have lived in our home for
    12 years and they have never addressed the severe flooding that we get. We have complained for years,
    and they only worked the other side of our street. That is not where the problems are. We are divided by a
    median and it did not help at all. I cannot tell you how many days we have be so flooded that we cannot
    get down our road. Even the news has taken notice and did a story. But our city still did nothing. Please advise me on how to get their attention.

  15. Freddy says:

    We need better management in the city and the county. Like the rest of this country we are slowly going down hill. Remember elections are coming up and there are choices for new blood coming in.

  16. Mike T says:

    If the city could find a way to stop the erosion that happens along everyones driveway that would be a long term solution. Most of the driveways are so undermined (washed ouf) from this erosion that they are almost floating. I lived all my life in Deltona but we did not have culverts under our driveways. The swale continued overe the drive not under it. Maybe this was a bad design by ATT development. But the solution is to find a way to keep these drivewayls from washing out.

  17. We can do it says:

    The only way we can control the out of control spending is to get the people out of office and put ethical responsible people on there! Recycling Melissa Holland is not going g to do it! The same old will continue by recycling candidates. We need new faces and people to bond together and vote. We need elected officials who will get rid of Landon and attorney Reichmann and reorganize the current staff.Put z stop yo this madness!!!!!!!

  18. Cha Ching says:

    I don’t seed the city doing much of anything other than landscaping. Sounds like they have moved mone around so much by robbing Peter to pay Paul that they ared wanting more revenue . Because they do so much mixing of funds and spend so many millions the Auditor General needs to come in and audit their books. The stench is getting too strong not to.

  19. Ricky says:

    A lot of good points have been mentioned here. But expressing your thought here will not get solutions. Maybe more people with the same complaints should attend a council meeting to address this issue. The city has done my swale twice in the past 4 years or so. Never had a problem the 15yrs before that. Now I have standing water just by spitting in the swale in front of my house. IMO, the water drainage system that was developed by ITT is out dated because of all the home we now have in Palm Coast and needs to be revamped. Besides when there is standing water it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos. Redevelope a better drainage system and get rid of most of the mosquito problem. Save the money that is paid for the driver from mosquito control having to drive around and spray.

    I agree though, the high paid city leaders need to go because they have no clue what the heck is the solution.

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