Commercial and all non-residential properties across the city of Goldsboro are under review for a new stormwater fee that is expected to start in early 2018.
City officials originally planned to implement monthly stormwater fees for non-residential properties in January, but the process has been backed up to a later date, possibly March, said Rick Fletcher, director of public works.
A recommended rate structure was presented to the Goldsboro City Council this week and remains under review.
In July, the city rolled out its new stormwater fee for single-family residential property owners -- $4.50 per month. Residential stormwater fee collections will bring in close to $1 million in new revenue for the city that will be used to repair and maintain the city's stormwater system and help reduce flooding.
The planned non-residential fees are also expected to lead to approximately $1.13 million in revenue, Fletcher said.
The stormwater fees are being implemented due to the lack of city funding to adequately address needs across the city, such as the clearing of ditches and unclogging stormwater pipes, which helps alleviate flooding.
Prior to the new fees, the city stormwater division has been supported through the general fund revenues, which are provided through property tax revenues.
The city of Goldsboro, unlike other area cities, including Kinston, Wilson and Rocky Mount, has not implemented stormwater fees. In other communities, the fees have been collected for years, if not decades, to address local stormwater maintenance needs.
Fletcher presented a non-residential property fee structure to the Goldsboro City Council during its Dec. 4 meeting.
The fees are based on the amount of impervious surface, areas where stormwater is unable to enter the ground, including buildings and parking lots. The baseline involves the flat fee residential property owners are paying, $4.50 per month, for what is called an Equivalent Residential Unit.
In Goldsboro, one ERU equals 3,000 square feet, the average size of a residential property in the city.
Non-residential properties across the city -- nearly 1,500 -- have been evaluated and ERUs assigned, Fletcher said.
The largest property with the most impervious surface in Goldsboro is Wayne Community College, a 22.8-acre property with 331 ERUs.
Instead of charging a non-residential fee that multiplies the number of ERUs by $4.50, Fletcher is recommending a declining block rate structure, which results in a lower cost.
"We're trying to go out of our way to be fair to our businesses," he said. "Wayne Community College was going to be paying $1,500 a month."
If the $4.50 per each ERU was charged, the college would owe the city $1,489.50 per month. The declining block rate results in a monthly cost of $671. Non-residential property owners also have the ability to receive a 10 percent discount if they have a stormwater retention pond of other treatment system.
The declining rate is proposed to be $4.50 for each ERU up to 60, $3 for the next 40 ERUs, $2 for the next 50 ERUs and $1 for every ERU above 150.
"We want to make sure our assessed fees are fair," Fletcher told the council. "It's something we're proposing to offset the cost. We're trying to keep it fair and reasonable."
During the work session, Councilman Bevan Foster said he thought the declining rate was too low and asked if the ERU tiers could increase from $3 to $3.75 for 61 to 100 ERUs, from $2 to $3 for 101 to 150 ERUs, and from $1 to $2.50 for every ERU above 150. The first 60 ERUs would remain at $4.50 each.
The increased amounts would result in WCC paying $1,022.50, instead of the proposed $671.
Foster said charging $1 for the lowest tier is too low.
"I'm fine with a declining block," Foster said. "Going all the way down to tier four, I don't think it should be less than $2.50."
Some of Goldsboro's larger non-residential properties, with 10 acres or more, include Sam's Club and the Berkeley Mall. With Fletcher's proposal, Sam's Club would pay $540 per month and Berkeley Mall owners would pay $479 per month.
Mayor Chuck Allen said the non-residential property owners are charged a higher rate because the properties generate more stormwater. He also said the higher rate scenario proposed by Foster would negatively affect some of the city's larger taxpayers.
"You're going to be hitting some of these businesses that are tax-paying generators pretty hefty," Allen said.
Foster said he thought the larger property owners need to pay their share.
"We're hitting our residents pretty hefty, too," Foster said. "If you do one, you've got to do the other."
The council asked Fletcher to calculate the cost of the higher rate structure for presentation and consideration by the council at an upcoming meeting. The non-residential fees include commercial, government, multifamily residential, agencies and nonprofit properties.
The city's consultant, who has worked to develop stormwater fees for 120 municipalities across the nation, said Goldsboro's proposed declining block fee is the first he's seen, with other locations charging higher rates with a flat fee for each ERU.
Stormwater employees are in the process of trying to coordinate a meeting with area business owners, possibly through the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the upcoming rate plan, Fletcher said.
"None of this is finalized," he said. "It's very fluid right now.
"The council has to approve this."