It was fun while it lasted.
Residents of fast-growing Grovetown, who during the past nine years didn't have to pay the county's "rain tax" like Martinez and Evans residents: Your time might be up.
Grovetown's city council last week started making plans to set up a stormwater utility. To pay for the program, they would impose a stormwater utility fee.
Much of the project is still preliminary. None of the details have been voted on or written into law.
But there's little doubt that residents in the city limits of Grovetown will be paying a fee, likely based on the amount of "impervious surface" on their property.
Such a fee hits every property owner. Schools and churches are exempt from property taxes, but just as the rain falls on the taxed and untaxed alike, so does the rain tax.
A Georgia lawmaker currently is pushing a bill that would exempt state property from paying stormwater utility fees, but that hardly seems fair. If the concept of such a fee is that the money is extracted from customers (property owners) to provide a service (drainage infrastructure), then the state shouldn't be exempt any more than it could get out of paying for county water.
Grovetown is one of 55 Georgia cities, along with 29 counties, falling under federal mandates requiring a stormwater management program, and stormwater utility fees are a growing trend for those communities.
As residents of Columbia County's "stormwater utility service area" already know, the fee is small - but irritation over it isn't. In fact, when first implemented in 1999, the fee was the target of a lawsuit by citizens claiming it was an illegal tax.
The county won that suit, and last year took in some $1.6 million in stormwater utility fees, says Columbia County Water Utility Division Director Billy Clayton.
Grovetown's fee obviously won't receive that much money, but city officials say the funds will pay for the services needed for the city's growing population.
Undoubtedly, many of the citizens will dislike getting hit with another bill. But look on the bright side: At least they've avoided it for the past nine years.
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