Monday night a meeting was held at the Magnuson Hotel off 192 to discuss the proposed stormwater utility fee for Osceola County. Residents have been concerned about what exactly this fee will do and how much it will cost residents and business owners.
Controlling run-off is important to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and allows us to be better stewards of Osceola County. Run-off from private and business properties make its way through pipes and ditches to lakes and rivers, carrying pollutants or an abundant of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen that can result in fish kills, algal blooms, and increase growth of aquatic weeds such as hydrilla. For example, excess fertilizer can be moved to lakes and streams from yard run-off and threaten wildlife by encouraging the microbial blooms that can disrupt entire ecosystems. It is important for us to use the infrastructure already in place and invest in additional infrastructure to protect our lakes and streams.
Many would not argue that it is important for the things necessary to protect our waterways, but many are arguing about who should pay for it. Osceola County has a dedicated budget for stormwater, but those allocated funds are earmarked as a part of the general budget and can be moved around, making many upset. This has decreased the funding to support the current state of the stormwater utility department. Osceola County is proposing a stormwater utility fee that can only be used for stormwater utility services to ensure our waterways remain clean. The controversial question at stake is should there be a dedicate a stormwater utility fee in addition to the current county funding, or should the county be better stewards of the tax payer’s dollars and figure out a solution? One passionate former Osceola County budget office employee stated, “Osceola County doesn’t have a revenue, we have a spending problem.” Many residents echoed this sentiment saying that “It’s the residents and business owners that pay”. Where you stand on the matter is up to you. Here we are just presenting the facts laid before the residents at this particular meeting so that you can make your own personal informed decision.
The fee is quite controversial among residents and business owners. While many see it just as another way the county can take away from the hard working residents and business owners, there is also a lot of good that can come from the fee. Osceola County stormwater infrastructure is about at the end of its life and parts will need replacing. The average lifespan of a stormwater system is about 30 years. In addition, there is a large portion of Osceola County that does have adequate infrastructure in place. The revenue generated by these fees would help to maintain and replace existing infrastructure and add the needed infrastructure in other parts of the county to meet federal standards. Some of the funds would be used for outreach, education, street sweeping to reduce trash and pollutants from entering waterways and to apply for infrastructure matching grants. It was clear at the meeting that the waterways under analyzed. There is not enough data to fully understand the impact we are having on our waterways. Data compiled from state assessments, adjacent county assessments and the assessments done by Osceola County do not take in seasonality into consideration. A portion of the revenue would be used to do a more comprehensive assessment and that could lead to a decrees in the fee depending on the findings of that study, likewise it could lead to an increase if the values were under reported and require additional mediation practices to meet federal standards. This is also where matching grants could help.
The fees are dependent upon the size of the residence or business and range from $3.50 – $44.16 a month. These are estimated to be the high end and will likely be lower. There are credit opportunities where up to 80% of the fee could be credited if you have on-site best management practice policies in place and either have green landscaping, treatment swales, or stormwater ponds. There are additional non-residential credits available beyond the residential practices. These include stormwater education credits for schools, public outreach participation to name a few.
The proposed fee and ordinance has not yet been put before the Osceola County Commissioners. The public is invited to attend a community outreach event or a community meeting to learn more about the proposed fee, ask questions, or to voice their concern. The proposed fees and ordinance will go before the commission during an October meeting with the consolidated public input. If the commissioners vote to adopt the ordinance and associated fees, then they will be implemented no earlier than January 2019, as the 2018 budget would already have been passed before it comes before the commission.
If you want to attend a meeting to learn more about the proposed stormwater utility fee or would like your voice to be heard, the next outreach is schedule for August 19th (details below) are two other meetings are planned to be held in Celebration and Poinciana. Osceola County has not announced the date, place, or time for these meetings. Osceola residents are also encouraged to email their questions or comments to email@example.com or contact Osceola County Public Works (407) 742-0662.
Public Education and Outreach for Potential Stormwater Utility Fee Assessment
August 19th, 2017 1pm-3pm
Osceola Heritage Park Osceola Heritage Park
1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee FL, 34744