Feb 17

Roll Back Storm Water Rates and Hidden Taxes

Fellow concerned taxpayers, 

Many residents, businesses and non-profits are suffering sticker shock on utility bills from the new storm water rate calculations started in January.  Only a few with minimal impervious space saw a decrease.  Many residents with larger square footage homes saw an increase from $14 to almost $26 (almost double) and the largest non-residential properties with one meter saw their charges multiply by 7.3 times, going from $93 to $680 per month, which will be $8160 per year just for storm water fees.
Obviously, there has been a huge outcry from many affected by the huge hike.  Ratepayers should be even more outraged to know that the total storm water revenue increased by almost 1/3rd over 2013-14, from $19.3 million to $25.4 million, despite the City falsely claiming that the revised calculations are “revenue neutral”, meaning the same as last year.  Almost $3 million of the total are embedded taxes that escalated 29% and the “indirect cost allocation”, which is the department’s share of City administration, went up 81.5%. We protested by pointing out the inflated total and the future negative economic impact during several Council meetings, starting last August, but the Council never discussed it and passed this deceptive money grab on second reading last October. 

The total hidden taxes for all utility departments this year amounts to an unsustainable $32.1 million diverted to the General Fund to use for purposes unrelated to the utilitities.  This has become 1/5th of the total revenue of that fund, so the City would have to wean itself from this addiction that has allowed huge growth in total revenue, spending and borrowing every year without public awareness and consent.  This year, $135.4 million debt service on our over $1.1 billion  debt principal includes $49.6 million interest that could have been used to pay for essential projects instead. 

The Mayor has acknowledged that there is no fair way to assess storm water charges other than bringing this utility back into the General Fund. This is complicated because current storm water debt is over $114 million, with much more to come very soon.  Any long term remedy must include phasing out all hidden utility taxes (made up of 6% franchise fees on gross receipts plus full property taxes on the value of each utility department’s assets).  We must also demand that the City immediately list these taxes on our bills as LP&L has, so they are apparent and can be deducted from income taxes.

Action needed by everyone now includes checking the storm water charge on your LP&L bill, encourage your family and friends and businesses you frequent to do the same.  Then contact the City Council with your concerns.  E-mail them at first name initial, then last name@ mylubbock.us (example: grobertson@mylubbock.us   Also, you can protest to the storm water hotline: 775-3118.  If at all possible, attend the Mayor’s town hall meeting on storm water Wednesday, February 18th at Hillcrest Country Club at 6:30 p.m.  The Council will have a work session to finally discuss this mess on February 26th, probably at 1 p.m.  If you want more factual details prior to the Mayor’s meeting, our South Plains Advocates for Freedom group (SPAFF) will meet on Wednesday at Red Zone Restaurant at 3p.m.  Let me know if you need clarification.

Mikel Ward  795-8870