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County Identifies Franchise and Stormwater Fees as Potential Revenue Sources


BRADENTON – At a workshop Tuesday, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and staff gave a presentation on future revenue outlooks. Billed as “How Will We Pay,” the presentation followed a morning session, titled, “How Will We Grow.” Staff suggested several ways that the county might increase revenues including alternatives to millage rate increases like utility franchise fees and stormwater removal assessments.

Per county ordinance and its contracts with utility providers, there is a potential for Manatee County to collect fees for use of county rights of way from electricity, natural gas and water/sewer customers. Many cities in Manatee County already charge a franchise fee or utility tax for utilities.

“Franchise fees” are a charge levied for the use of the county’s rights of way by utility systems. The fees are then passed on to customers, which would be paid not only by property owners, but by all users of the utilities in the unincorporated area. Staff suggested the possibility of a franchise fee initially for electricity, which they said FPL was receptive to, while other utilities to be added as franchise agreements are developed and implemented.

Another fee the county is considering is a “storm-water utility fee” to cover the cost of maintaining the county’s stormwater runoff system. In such a scenario, an assessment can be assigned to each property with an impervious surface, such as building, driveway or parking lot.

According to the county, the current stormwater program provides a minimal maintenance level which is funded with a transfer of $3.7 million from other sources in the utilities system (the county is allowed to move funds between various utilities using an excess in one to cover shortages in others). The proposal offered Tuesday would change the source of funding and reduce garbage rates for residential customers by $2 per month. A residential storm-water maintenance fee of $2 per month would be implemented and collected on the property tax bill.

The fee would be paid by properties with impervious surfaces contributing to stormwater runoff, including some properties now exempt from property taxes, as is already being done in many municipalities. A fee study would be used to set rates for residential and also commercial properties, who could be hardest hit because of their greater impervious surface areas. The presentation suggested that an initial fee cover maintenance only and that capital costs would require future assessment.

With the storm-water fee appearing on the tax bill, the county could also move the garbage charges from monthly utility bill to the property tax bill. Staff said that his would eliminate monthly billing for garbage collection that allows customers to “turn off” utility billing seasonally, increasing total revenues. The suggestions will be taken up by the board of county commissioners at a future meeting. Click here to view the full slide-show presentation given Tuesday.


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