Horry County Council is looking at raising resident's annual stormwater fee by more than the $10 originally proposed.
For single family residential lots, which make up most of the homes in the county, a proposed ordinance would raise the stormwater fee per lot by $20. The ordinance is being written for inclusion into next year's budget, which doesn't include any tax increases, but may include the fee hike.
The increase means if you're paying the existing rate of $29.40 right now, the proposed ordinance would raise your rate to almost $50 next year. If it passes, you'll notice the increase on your annual property tax statement from the county.
Horry County Stormwater Manager Tom Garigen said after a county committee meeting Tuesday that the $20 increase would generate an additional $3.2 million in revenue per year for the utility, which currently has a budget of almost $5 million.
The $5 million budget doesn’t include almost $2.5 million in capital projects and drainage studies that need to be done.
"The biggest problems is we’ve just really fallen way behind on routine maintenance," Garigen said. "Our drainage system continues to increase with all the new development, new ditches that we’re responsible for maintaining. We just can’t keep up with that workload with current staffing. With the current funding level pretty much staying level around $5 million, I can’t add more people to maintain more ditches and that’s the problem."
According to a presentation, Horry County's stormwater fees are lower than several other counties and municipalities. Charleston County's stormwater fee is $36, Georgetown County's fee is $51.60 and Myrtle Beach's is $63, according to the presentation.
The stormwater fee hasn't increased since 2000, while inflation and population growth has given the stormwater department more work to do with equipment and manpower that costs more than it did when the fee was implemented.
"We’ve got all kinds of drainage shortfalls throughout the county, pipes that are too small, culverts that are too small that need to be fixed and we just don’t have the funds to do that," Garigen said.
But the proposed ordinance wouldn't just make existing residents pay for the growth.
It also would include a fee on new development to be used for stormwater without meeting the definition of an impact fee.
"It’s going to have to be something that is titled such that it doesn’t meet the definition of an impact fee but has the effect, without breaking the law, of being able to allow new development and growth to pay for the impacts that they’re having on our drainage system," said councilor Johnny Vaught. "We have to write it in such a way that we can actually use it because the straight impact fee laws right now are totally restrictive effect."
Garigen said the county would have to work with attorneys to write the law in a way that doesn't the county sued for violating the state's impact fee law.
The state law requires studies to be done before an impact fee is implemented, and mandates the fees be spent within three years only on infrastructure within the development from which the fee was assessed.
"Don’t worry about what the state says," Vaught said during Tuesday's committee meeting. "Figure out a way to do it. We’ll ask for forgiveness if we get caught."
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian