Friday, October 31, 2014

Tax increase rejected

City Council looks at new stormwater management fee

The meals tax suggested in Lynchburg’s budget proposal was taken off the menu by City Council.

Lynchburg council met Tuesday, April 10, to discuss the 2013 fiscal year operating budget proposal during a private work session. At that time, the council unanimously moved to dismiss the “Eat for Education” meals tax whose proceeds were going towards Heritage High School renovations.

According to City Manager Kimball Payne, the city was able to make $1.6 million in adjustments to the budget to make up for the missing taxes lost by not adopting the meals tax increase.

“(The meals tax) received the most comments against anything during the budget public hearing and it seemed to me, from their comments, that most Council members did not support the increase,” Payne said.

As it stands now, meals tax will remain 6.5 percent for city taxes, and five percent for state.

While the removal of the meals tax from the budget proposal has caused joy within the restaurant business, attention now turns towards the stormwater management fee also being suggested to City Council. According to the current proposed city budget, stormwater fees are expected to total $3.2 million.

The stormwater fund was created by the Department of Water Resources to respond to the increase of federal and state regulations meant to maintain existing stormwater infrastructure. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), watershed from the Chesapeake Bay has remained polluted. Because of this, the EPA has issued the requirement for all areas within the Chesapeake Bay drainage area to develop a way to reduce the pollution. Lynchburg falls within the drainage area and will have to come up with a plan of action to help meet these regulations.

The stormwater management fee was proposed by the city to help offset some of the costs that the city will be experiencing from this.

According to Liberty University corporate engineer for planning and construction Maggie Cossman, the stormwater management fee is being suggested at $4 per single family unit (SFU), or the average amount of impervious area on a single family parcel within the city, per month. With Liberty’s approximate 270 acres of impervious areas, or artificial structures that water cannot penetrate, the estimated stormwater fee could total $212,000 per year for the university, which represents 6.6 percent of the total proposed $3.2 million city budget.

According to Lee Beaumont, the Director of Auxiliary Services at Liberty, two shopping centers, Candler’s Station and the Plaza, both owned by the university, will also be impacted by the proposed fee.

If the proposal is approved by the city council, Beaumont said, then the stormwater management fee could be raised in the future to pay for additional upgrades needed in the City of Lynchburg.

“If the fee is approved, it will be subjected to an annual rate study, the results of which could be increases in the fee. Once the total daily maximum load pollutant requirement has been established for the city, the fee could be raised to pay for the required pollutant reduction measures,” Cossman said.

The city will propose the stormwater management fee to City Council Tuesday, April 24.

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