A divided Palm Coast City Council this morning adopted a stormwater fee increase of residents’ monthly bill from $22.27 currently to $39.10 by 2028, or 76 percent.
It is less than the 102 percent increase that the city’s stormwater department and a city consultant sought. It will still add up to nearly $500 a year in stormwater fees for single-family households by 2028, when city taxes are not that much higher for some.
The stormwater rate is increasing in part because the city has annually cut a portion of property tax that has been allocated to stormwater revenue. In other words, the higher stormwater fee is subsidizing a lower property tax. (Council member Ed Danko referred to the stormwater fee as a “tax,” as it essentially is: while some residents do not pay it, because they live in subdivisions that operate their own stormwater system, the overwhelming majority of residents and businesses do.)
The 3-2 vote followed a motion by Council member Theresa Pontieri that includes a condition: stormwater fee increases between 2028 and 2033 will be limited to each year’s inflation rate.
Pontieri was insistent on that condition because since 2012, the council has raised the stormwater fee sharply every five years–or faster, in this year’s case–each time claiming that the city needed to do so, or else it would fall behind with catastrophic results.
In 2012, the stormwater fee was $8 a month. The council increased it to $11.65 a month, a 46 percent increase, with no additional increases. In 2018, the council approved a five-year plan to increase it incrementally to $23.95 a month, what would have been a 105 percent increase. The last increment was to kick in on Oct. 1.
The resolution the council approved today overrides that increase with a much steeper one, taking the current rate of $22.27 to $28.34 come Oct. 1, a 27 percent increase. It will be the single-sharpest increase in the next five years. In 2024, the rate will increase 16 percent, to $32.87, then 10 percent, to $36.16, then by 6 and 2 percent in the last two years of the cycle. Starting in 2028, the rate will increase at whatever rate the CPI, or consumer price index, stands the previous June.
“I just want there to be some assurity to our residents that they’re not going to look at another increase like this come 2028,” Pontieri said.
Council members Pontieri, Nick Klufas and Mayor David Alfin voted for the increase. Danko and Cathy Heighter voted against.
“My feeling is, this is such a massive increase in five years, I’d like to see us cut it in half,” Danko said with some bluster, blaming cost increases on “sleepy Joe.” Other than cutting the rate in half, Danko offered no explanation on how that would be achieved, in the context of the city’s needs, even though the administration had made clear that the needs ahead are not quite optional. Cote described some recent infrastructure failures, such as the one that closed Florida Park Drive for months, as an example.
Alfin hunted for a consensus among all five council members, and at one point seemed amenable to cutting the increases in half, or limiting them immediately to cost of living increases. But Construction and Stormwater Director Carl Cote and City Manager Denise Bevan quickly dissuaded him. Bevan explained that the city operates its capital improvements in five-year and 10-year spans. Cote said that limiting increases to inflation would continue what the city is doing now. “It could be a lot less if you attach it only to CPI,” and could hamper the ability to take out loans, new staffing would be cut, as would new equipment purchases, Cote said. “You basically have what you have today.”
“Why don’t we postpone this for a year and bring this back in a year,” Danko said.
“Because they work on five year plans,” Alfin said.
“The old Soviet Union worked on a five-year plan and that didn’t work too well, did it,” Danko said.
“I’m an engineer, and in engineering five-year plans are very common and have nothing to do with that kind of reference,” Alfin corrected. (In fact, even Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had five-year plans, the latter greatly successful, as routinely do federal agencies).
The vote today is the culmination of a series of workshops through which Cote and Murray Hamilton of of Raftelis Financial Consultants outlined various options for the council to tackle a long inventory of stormwater infrastructure improvements around the city–improvements that never cease to lengthen a list that before the last 10 years had not been the priority it has been since. The stormwater system is a complex network of 1,222 miles of swales, 58 miles of freshwater canals, 177 miles of ditches and 14 major flood-control structures such as weirs, among other systems, that keep water flowing from yards and streets to swales to canals to the sea. The system has been remarkably efficient despite the increasing intensity of storms and downpours in the past decade, preventing any home flooding in the city.
The council over the last few weeks’ discussions considered shifting the cost of mowing swales in front of vacant lots to lot owners. Under such a proposal, those who fail to do so would be cited by code enforcement. But the council has not yet made a decision on that possibility. (See: “Owners of 10,000 Vacant Lots in Palm Coast May Soon Be Responsible for Mowing Rights of Way.” An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the proposal was enacted by the resolution approved on Tuesday.)
The rate increase drew only two public speakers, neither of them opposed to the increase.
Left unspoken in the weeks of discussions about the rising burdens on municipal infrastructure are the effects of climate change–rising seas, which affect the city’s canal structure, and intensifying rain events, which affect the overall stormwater system. The stormwater fee’s rise, in a sense, includes the unspecified cost of climate change, with which local governments are now routinely contending–through beach-erosion and renourishment costs, stormwater costs, road-repair costs, even sun-protection costs, and so on.
Speedy Faith says
I am so gad that I no longer have to deal with the City of Palm Coast and all their Knucklehead Politicians.
tj melton says
Never ending storm water treatment increases instead of property tax increases? What bullshit! My property taxes have doubled, now this? Just what exactly justifies this thievery? Five year engineering plans will not fix past, present, or future stupidity. Congratulations, & isn’t it time to vote yourselves another salary increase? Your greed is noted.
Please elaborate; “property taxes have doubled”??? Over how long a time period? Did you build a huge addition to your house? What has increased your property values so much? Are you aware of the tax caps in place to prevent such happenings? Did you give up your homestead credit? Please let us know what led to this drastic increase so we may learn and not succumb to the same fate.
Elaborate? I am a retired 75 yr old senior living on a fixed income. My property taxes went up $700.00! Just ask the appraiser. 5 yrs ago the appraisal went up. It is homesteaded. The property value increased because apparently of it’s price. This is called extortion
Why don’t you elaborate on these “tax caps”?
tj melton’s comment needs context. It is inaccurate to claim that taxes have “doubled,” either by looking at tax rates, which have demonstrably not doubled at any point in the past decade, or come close to doubling, or at the tax burden on a homesteaded property owner, which also has not significantly changed for the past 10 years. If anything, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the property tax burden in Palm Coast taxes has fallen over the past 10 years.
But it’s very different for non-homesteaded and commercial properties, whose tax burden has indeed increased significantly: two identical houses, one homesteaded and the other not, on the same street, in the same block, could very easily be paying $1,000 in one case, $2,000 in the other, depending on time of purchase or homestead status, while commercial and rental properties, whose annual taxable valuations are capped at 10 percent, not 3 percent, have also seen their tax burden increase: the non-homesteaded and commercial properties, in effect, subsidize homesteaded properties. tj melton could be a property owner of vacant lots or non-homesteaded properties, in which case the claim that taxes have doubled (depending on the time frame) would be accurate, and in some cases (again, depending on time frame) an understatement. But the blame for that goes to the state’s tax structure, replicated across communities all over Florida, not necessarily to the city’s policies, with the exception regarding the previous allocation of a portion of Palm Coast’s property tax to stormwater revenue. There is no question that in that case, the city has deceptively used decreasing the property tax only by shifting the burden to the stormwater fee, as illustrated by this pair of graphs, taken from the city’s own budget books.
Indeed, the city has deceptively used the property tax level & the storm water fee. In my case…double deception. This is due to incompetence, lies & mismanagement.
hey gee says
Palm coast is making jersey look low tax
Dennis C Rathsam says
This is a slap in the face to seniors, between P/C annual tax increase, and the cost of insurance what will they do? Theres only so many hot dogs & beans one can eat. Folks over 65 should get a brake, wheres the cities compasion? Where do they think they can get the money from? Inflation has already killed the little raise they got. The golden years, aint so golden now. And as for the grass situation, many lot owners live out of state. All we are going to get is high grass on every street. Dont worry about the code people…They cant keep the cars out of the swales over night, or the boats in the driveway, days on end…Its turned into a joke, just like all the vans covered in writing, even a Flagler board of ed utility truck in the driveway every night. Obviously we need a new set of eyes, cos the ones we have now cant see!
What does this say about the leadership and management of the city?
It does not appear that my taxes have been reduced to pay for stormwater in the past.
Next will be the property tax increase, a fee for those who live on canals and of course big pay increases for the staff.
I need some medical advise. Can my 70 year old body survive on food every other day? At least will I have the strength to vote these people out of office?
JustBe Nice says
Wow, when is it going to end? FPL just went up, Waste pick up just went up, HO insurance just went up. Salaries stay the same.
So is the storm water increase going to mean that our swales won’t overflow and the end or our street where there are drains won’t overflow and flood the street? I’d like to know. SMH
What other increases is down the pike? We get another garbage company in June. More increases, just saying.
Yup, I’ve “observed” enough and I’ve said enough.
Time to vote out Alfin, Klufas & Pontieri, they can find other things to do after the next election. So over the growth plan that always seems to be short on paying for itself and ends up being Biden-Harris inflation for no better infrastructure than we already were getting. Traffic is getting worse because it’s the same roads, 5 gallons of poop in a 2 gallon bucket. What this is, laziest across the board passing of the tax burden to those of us that live in the higher elevation & drier areas of the county. Everyone knows this is the the intracoastal canal dredging. Also the Marshland swamp for Town Center Parkway area that’s going to get new apartment & housing development. and the impact fees aren’t being collected if they’re even adequate to pay for the new residential & the infrastructure. That’s going to clog the few roads end to end & side to side of the city/county. It’s also going to be every canal view property that the rest of us don’t benefit from in the least. Those that have those properties need to eat more of the tax increases instead of a blanket charge to the rest of us. Quite candidly these folks bought those properties they need to realize that the premium of the view every day comes with additional tax burden to maintain it. Instead a majority of the county that doesn’t ever even drive over to the area are stuck with bearing the burden of that maintenance. those areas might as well be Timbuktu.
Over the past 4 years, we seen $ 5+ million spent on a splash pad that is a burden on taxpayers. Every article I’m on record that the $ 5 million needed to be spent on repairing the roads & whatever other infrastructure, not p*ssed away on Milissa Holland’s “Pork” Park for something that didn’t operate thru the 1st couple of weeks much more even thru the summer after the event of the big ribbon cutting ceremony as the grand opening. That was “BA” (Before Alfin) and he’s no better than Holland was. He threatened us with leaving for a State position and that fell thru. So we’re stuck with him until the next election in 2024.
Klufas, he lists the Splash Pad as an accomplishment. At least he owns that. The street lights & cell towers, those were going to happen anyway with 5G for cell towers.
“Other accomplishments include his advocacy for street lights, cell towers, and the Holland Park Splash Pad.”
My ass still hurts from the last meeting says
Actually Pontieri is the only one asking the questions of staff. The City Managers both of them and the Staff that plans the storm water are not qualified to plan. Their track record is pretty clear with all the rate increases in such a short period of time.
Fire the current staff they are the problem .
Soooo, it goes from 22.27 to almost $40!!!??? Outrageous. We residents are being fee’d to death. We need an audit of the water department, and in fact the whole city government budget. Where is the money going? What about the poor retired elderly who have lived here on fixed incomes for decades and now must decide if they will buy FOOD and Medicine or pay these userous fees?
The upcoming increase is $ 6.07/month ($ 28.34-22.27) for the 1st year. Hopefully in 2024 we get a new POTUS hat can get a handle on inflation. The one we have now is the worst ever. It’s like they are being rewarded with their inflationary lies to justify the next gouge. It almost is as if they just budget based upon applying a percentage increase hat has zero basis in reality.
And where did that money all go. Certainly not maintaining any swales. The talk that the city mows vacant lot swales is yet another lie. I’ve never seen anyone from the City of Palm Coast coming into the residential to mow the swales, vacant lot or developed with a dwelling, ever. The mow is confined solely to Belle Terre in this area. Just to give an example, how long did it take to build a bridge back for Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian ? The bridge across the canal before Buddy Taylor Middle School has taken forever to build, it remains incomplete. Nobody working on it. I hope nobody is getting paid for lying about working on that bridge. Is that even a 30 day project at worst with the technology & equipment in 2023.
That dam/thing in the canal that runs along Royal Palms Parkway, they built another one, moving it 30 feet from where the original one is. What was wrong with the other dam ? Was it not directly in front of the FPL power sub station ? Wasn’t tall enough ?
“The resolution the council approved today overrides that increase with a much steeper one, taking the current rate of $22.27 to $28.34 come Oct. 1, a 27 percent increase. It will be the single-sharpest increase in the next five years. In 2024, the rate will increase 16 percent, to $32.87, then 10 percent, to $36.16, then by 6 and 2 percent in the last two years of the cycle. Starting in 2028, the rate will increase at whatever rate the CPI, or consumer price index, stands the previous June.”
John Stove says
Not mentioned in this article…….As part of the storm water system there are also 26 miles of SALT WATER CANALS that carry storm water runoff from swales, culverts and fresh water canals out into the ICW. Failure to maintain the water conveyance capacity of these salt water canals the system would back up and not drain properly.
These 26 miles of salt water canals have been part of the City’s storm water system since the first house was built, they are included in their infrastructure inventory, have engineering standards and city codes/ordinances to regulate them and are governed by the NPDES permit with the State of Florida.
Terry John melton says
It is time to take a serious look at whether or not these people can perform in their capacity as council members or just raise
fees & taxes as they see fit to offset piss poor management. How much of this community exists(?) on a retirement income? It’s time to vote these people out. They have burdened us…enough!
Thank you PC city gov for making Palm coast the highest! water bills in the state. We’re #1
jeffery seib says
Well, to no one’s surprise they raised our fees again. It really was a foregone conclusion, wasn’t it? But Flagler Live was wrong that the public, of which I consider myself a member, didn’t speak out against this huge fee/tax increase. I spoke at the public participation time at the beginning of the city council meeting because I am opposed to the entire concept of government by fees. Stormwater, Garbage, roads, park improvements, and what ever else they want shouldn’t be placed on the Utility bill. These items should be funded from the general revenue city budget. The following are the final statements I made to the council. Of course, they fell on deaf ears.
The fee environment encourages waste because there is little to no accountability which inhibits efficiency. If these fees were part of city taxes the tax increases necessary to fund repairs would require staff to find savings, economies, and innovations to accomplish the same result at manageable funding levels.
Currently, money is tight for many of us here, retirees on fixed income, and young families with children. Since we are in such a situation, I call on the city to consolidate resources, redirect the cities emphasis to finding a cost-effective manner of doing these upgrades and repairs without huge fee, tax, assessments, or thirty silver pieces of silver charged to residents. It needs to be done; it can be done.
Burnice Bauch says
I found your article on the stormwater fee increase very informative. It’s great to see that the local government is taking steps to address stormwater management and invest in infrastructure improvements. The detailed explanation of the fee increase and how it will be used to fund various projects, such as drainage system upgrades and water quality improvements, helps to create awareness and understanding among residents. It’s important for the community to recognize the value of investing in stormwater management to mitigate flooding, protect water resources, and enhance overall environmental sustainability. I appreciate how you presented the different perspectives and concerns raised by residents regarding the fee increase, highlighting the need for transparency and open communication between the government and the community. This article serves as a valuable resource for residents to stay informed about the stormwater fee increase and its impact on their community. Thank you for providing such relevant and important information!
Celia Pugliese says
The problem we encounter today with our city utility fees is that its reserves accounts since city bought the utility after incorporation, those reserves been used as cash cow of millions of dollars for what was not intended and mostly to benefit the Town Center infrastructure like the widening and maintenence of Old Kings Road south section along Town Center, the millions spent on buying the private properties in Boulder Rock corner of Rte 100 to benefit Town Center, the costly infrastructure along the high school also on Rte 100 on Boulder Rock paid by Palmcoasters when should have been paid by the FDOT…The remodel costly engineering study and work to benefit the current developer approved in beautiful Whiteview Parkway with the excuse of traffic safety…because couple of deadly accidents on it. We have more deadly accidents in Palm Coast Parkway but we are not digging up the parkway to resolve it when is the work of FCSO traffic safety units needed in place. The 22 millions plus newly built sewer processing plant in far north Palm Coast not to serve old Palm Coast in that location but to serve Palm Coast Park thousands of new housing…and their storm water drainage as well… Wake up folks they are forcing us to pay for growth…! That includes the 25 millions (also taxpayers funds) requested and approved grant by engineering Carl Cote and Alfin for” his vision Out West Expansion ” off Rte 100 of the Matanzas Parkway on vacant lands…they ask for fed and estate grants to benefit their developers buddies interest while raising our fess. The county approved itself a larger cut of the half sent tax that sustains our city roads repaving and the city just let them do it. Is not the county that received double the taxes than the city ,from our yearly ad valorem who paves our streets…is just the city and now they quietly cut themselves a large slice of the 1/2 cent gas tax to waste at county level so now city is asking us to fud 52 millions for our roads!….Lets ask how many millions FCBOCC shift to the airport on our hard earned taxes too. Let the fly boys pay their fair share and see if we can have a forensic audit of the airport finances! They all lie to us! They profit from that airport and the surrounding communities we endure the nuisance imnposed by arrogant foreign pilot training schools. I am also disappointed of councilwoman Pointieri giving in to Carl Cote’s request. She needs to ask for a detail finances of what engineering department spends our taxes and the utility fees on and if he is also forcing us to pay for growth! is not even 5 years past that unfortunately long serving councilman Nick Klufas wasted our hard earned taxes in his pet project city own Fiber Optic to get fantasy revenue and was told that was a waste messing up with the big boys (ATT, Spectrum,Verizon and now Metronet…and today Alfin said that project was a failure no revenue while speaking at the grand opening of Metronet Mr. Klufas and you running for commissioner?. As a GOP registered I vote NO to that. We been paying dearly for these mayors mostly ignorant visions that will end up sinking Palm Coast finances like happened in Compton CA.
Legacies, Jib Netts wasted in the Water Deasalination Plant , Holland in the Splash Park still closed, Klufas in his city Fiber Optic kaput and now Alfin 25 million vision out west! These departmental city heads are asking for grants for the wrong purpose! meanwhile Old Kings Road North seats un widen and our paved roads are crumbling!
Celia Pugliese says
Oh and I forgot to mention the increased bureaucracy at city level more assistants to each departmental head…we used to see the city manager doing its work in the past on meetings, now hardly speaks just the assistant do, also looks like planning has new assistants for chief Tyner ‘s rezoning, spot zoning or special exceptions to zoning etc. projects presented by developers and engineering Cote as well got a new person looks like he does nit know much about our city….and on top if a finger has to be moved they hire consultants…then why are we paying six figures to all this city personnel? We are heading to end like Compton CA.
Celia Pugliese says
Question how much does the city collect for all the hours that DeLorenzo (whos communication records we asked and not yet properly provided), Tyner, Carl Cote and their extensive staff hundreds of hours spent on developers presented projects? How much do we collect in $$ from these hours, days, months and years in labor, documentation and long discussed PLDRB and council meetings, do ever the taxpayers get refunded? Maybe we should start asking for those records as well..The actual real cost of city personnel labor hours, etc on each project that they fight so hard and prepare to be voted yes by council. Because we the taxpayers pay for that! As all is related ending with our raised fees.