Friday, July 15, 2011

Trib: On The Watch List

Mt. Lebanon's proposed storm water fee. It's raising hackles from those whose properties don't empty into the system and others who say the fee — $8 monthly for most residential properties -- doesn't treat properties of starkly different sizes fairly. Others favor the fee because it forces tax-exempt properties to pay their "fair share." But it is a slippery slope. What's next in Mt. Lebanon, charging for the use of air?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

See my letter and response from Mr. Brumfield, posted in its entirety below -David Huston

To David Huston, Commission
From: David Brumfield
Sent: Wed 7/13/11 4:34 PM
To: David Huston; Commission

RE: rain tax?


Thank you for your concern. I apologize if I did not address your questions last night. Let me see if I can do a better job now.

It is a fee because it is paid even by tax-exempt entities. The fact that you cannot opt-out does not make it a tax. As was discussed last night there are methods that can assist you in reducing your burden on the system and earning a credit. Though some services are currently provided under the general fund budget they are wholey inadequate. What we are doing is a necessary and massive expansion of our maintenance program to make up for years of neglect.

There was a reduction of the millage voted last year to balance a $5 monthly fee beginning in September. I do no forsee any further adjustment given the change to $8 a month. We are most certainly double dipping in the sense that we will move things out of the general fund budget without a reduction in taxes. Instead the money will be a drop in the bucket to start addressing our structural deficit.

I do not believe that an $8 a month fee hurts property values as much as flooding does so I believe that there will be a net gain from this program.

I believe you misunderstand the purpose of the program. This is a necessary infrastructure maintenance program. We do not pay for infrastructure when we need it it has to always be there for when we need it. We will get the system up to date and then shift the maintence and operating costs back to the general fund budget.

Right now our antiquated system costs the municipality in many ways: flooding of residential property; fire department overtime to respond to flood calls; police department overtime responding to flood calls; road closings; public works clean up projects; temporary repairs and reduction in property values. After consulting with the municipal engineer, our consultant, public works, the Fire Chief and Police Chief as well as countless residents (including you, Ms. Gillen and Mr. Lewis) I am confident that this program in its current form is good for Mt. Lebanon's long-term vitality and success.

I understand that I may not have convinced you of the merits of this program but I hope you at least feel I have addressed all of your questions.



From: David Huston
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 12:07 PM
To: Commission

Subject: rain tax

It is a tax, not a fee because:
1) It is compulsory, no way to opt-out
2) Residents have no way to control usage.
3) The same services are currently funded with tax dollars.

Is the municipality going to reduce millage or wage tax the same amount
as the municipality currently spends on storm sewer maintenance now?
You cannot have it both ways, double-dipping to pay for one service.
I asked the question yesterday, but did not get an answer.

An additional tax will reduce property values because neighboring communities
will be more attractive for potential home buyers.
We already pay more in wage tax, sanitary sewer tax and school taxes
are about to skyrocket beyond what our neighboring communities pay.

What is the municipality's plan during time of drought when there is no or
very little rainfall? What about winter months when snow fall sublimes and
percolates instead of running off?

Charging residents a rain tax even when the storm sewers
are not used would be just plain wrong.

David Huston

July 15, 2011 12:47 PM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...

The tax cut / storm water fee trade off was a SHAM.

The tax cut equaled about 6 months of $5 stormwater fee payments in 2011. Now the fee may be $8 and in 2012 will be paid for 12 months. We traded a $30 annual tax cut for a $96 annual fee.

This has been explained to me as matching revenues with expenses.

Which on its face seems OK, however there are many places in the MTL budget where we don't bother with such advanced accounting principles. If the Commission adopts this fee, I would hope more effort will be put forth to in-fact match revenues with expenses in the balance of the operating budget. Chances are though --- "matching revenues with expenses" is just a convenient soundbite.

I have been an advocate for the Municipality raising revenue (taxes) for the last several years. The Municipality is falling behind on maintaining our infrastructure. Continuing down this trail will not lead to a happy place.

With that said, if the $8 fee goes in, it will be important to watch what comes out of the operating budget (stormwater related expenses) and what goes in (someone's pet project).

July 16, 2011 10:49 AM  

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