TAMPA — Recent flooding has county commissioners evaluating ways of increasing Hillsborough County's stormwater fund, which could include raising the fee residents pay.
It's too late to increase the fee for next year, but commissioners voted Wednesday to ask the county administrator to allocate $5 million of the county's 2014-15 budget for stormwater projects. This money will serve as a bridge to funding some necessary work until the county can evaluate a potential increase in the annual fee residents pay.
Commissioner Les Miller added the item to the agenda in light of flooding that happened on Friday and Saturday. Heavy rains flooded streets, stranded motorists and canceled events throughout the region as authorities cautioned residents not to drive through standing water.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner acknowledged that the county has long neglected investing in its infrastructure.
"Boy, did it show this weekend," Commissioner Sandra Murman agreed.
Since 1991, single-family residences have been charged $12 each year for the stormwater fund, which addresses improvement projects, a culvert replacement program and a pollutant discharge elimination system. The fee, which has not seen an increased since its inception, generates about $6 million annually.
Miller said the county faces more than a $200 million backlog in stormwater work that needs to be done.
"It's time that we start looking at where we are and what we're doing with our infrastructure," he said. "The county infrastructure is aging. It's deteriorating."
Commissioners asked staff to put together a five-year plan starting with the 2015-16 budget that considers increasing the stormwater fee along with other funding sources such as bonds.
Public Utilities Department director John Lyons said the staff would need to evaluate pending projects and set priorities before reporting back to the board with a proposed plan and payment methods.
A fee increase would involve a separate public hearing and notification process, Lyons said.
"It has to go through a lot of public input," Lyons said. "We can't just raise the fee."
Caitlin Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.