Thursday, July 31, 2014
If the October county tax bills could fit more letters, the county’s newest tax could have had a different name: “Unfunded EPA federal mandate stormwater fee.”
But instead, it will simply be called the stormwater utility fee.
Regardless of name, the tax will be a $48 fee beginning in 2016 for unincorporated home owners. Over the next two years it will be phased in, starting with $36 to be paid in October. The fee in 2015 will be $42.
Berkeley County Council voted 5-2 Monday to create a new utility.
Berkeley County was the only coastal S.C. county without a stormwater utility up until now.
During the July 28 meeting, some council members expressed disapproval of the utility, but the majority agreed it needed to be created. Councilman Tim Callanan, who voted for the creation of the utility, requested that the line item added to tax payers bills in October read, “Unfunded EPA federal mandate stormwater fee.”
“It won’t fit ‘federal unfunded mandate.’ We might could abbreviate it but then it won’t serve the purpose (of educating the public),” county Information Technology Director Chip Boling said.
In 2012, the county spent $240,000; the next year, $380,000. But now costs are expected to nearly quadruple as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act mandates the program expand.
Due to that increased cost of an estimated $1.4 million, the county has moved forward with forming a utility to charge taxpayers, according to Engineering Director Frank Carson.
In 2011, council defeated an effort to pay for the program. At the time, the annual fee was proposed at $36 but later lowered to $12. Following a vote to defeat the measure, council decided to continue to pay for stormwater fees from the general fund.