Lee faces uphill battle to persuade public on new ‘Rain Tax’
July 23, 2013 11:56 PM | 2629 views | 9 9 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb’s storm sewers are getting a workout this summer, one of the rainiest on record.

Does the county’s stormwater system need upgrading and stepped-up maintenance? And if so, what is the best way of paying for it?

“Stormwater” is just what it sounds like — the water resulting from precipitation that “runs off,” rather than seeping into the soil. The stormwater system is designed to collect the runoff in ways that minimize flooding.

A draft proposal of the county’s strategic plan to be voted on by the Board of Commissioners this summer calls for the county to impose a stormwater utility fee — probably in the range of several dollars a month — on all property owners to pay for such projects.

“We’re not able to keep up with stormwater in the county,” Commission Chairman Tim Lee told the Marietta Daily Journal last week.

Stormwater projects and maintenance are funded via water-bill fees, not taxes. Revenues from the proposed utility fee would be dedicated for the stormwater system, not spent on the county’s water or sewer lines.

The county isn’t trying to play “catch-up” with growth as it is to replace and upgrade the aging infrastructure put in place during the county’s huge growth boom of 30 years ago.

“We had so much growth in the late ’70s and in the ’80s, and a lot of those pipes are getting old and are getting close to the end of their useful life,” said Cobb Water System Director Steve McCullers. “So we’d like to be able to put some money into the system to catch the ones that are failing and to catch some others before they are failing.”

Lee is not breaking new ground with his attempt to impose what critics are already calling a “rain tax.” Then-Chairman Sam Olens tried to talk the commission into a similar stormwater fee in 2003 and 2006, but without success.

As Lee was roughly reminded via last summer’s attempt to impose a 1 percent sales tax for regional transportation improvements (the “TSPLOST”), new taxes and new fees are a tough, tough “sale” in Cobb. Even the county and school system SPLOSTs that have passed have tended to do so by only a handful of votes.

No one wants to see Cobb County let its stormwater and related infrastructure deteriorate the way the City of Atlanta’s have. But if Lee wants to finally see the “rain tax” enacted, he needs to start laying the groundwork for it and educating the public on its necessity. Otherwise, despite the best of intentions, he likely will be told by the public that he’s, pardon the pun, “all wet.”



Comments
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Really Insane
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July 26, 2013
Not one of the suggestions in the comments section are reasonable. In fact, they all sound insane. Dig up the roads? Charge lacrosse teams? Blame global warming? Wow, just wow.
Dig up the roads
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July 26, 2013
Flash floods are yet another of the problems plaguing society that are directly attributible to our use daily of the motor vehicle.

Dig up the roads and water won't run off them.

Build an effective system of light rail that people could really use to go to work like in New York and Chicago and other "world class cities" (as we self proclaim to be) and the worst problems in metro Atlanta would actually just go away. Poof. Gone.
Readmopaper
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July 27, 2013
Forgive me for pointing out a fact or two, but New York and Chicago have massive road networks in addition to their massively subsidized rail transit systems. I can remember sitting in bumper to bumper stalled traffic on a Chicago freeway and watching commuter trains whiz along nearby with only a handful of passengers in each car. And, driving in Chicago is expensive with toll booths everywhere. There are limitless reasons why people will always prefer travel in their own cars.
Nonewtaxes
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July 25, 2013
Until I am convinced the County has exercised all reasonable economy in the spending of our tax dollars, I would be askance to support this new tax. What we need to do is more closely align paying for services with those who use them, like Lacrosse teams, and charge non-residents more for using county services and facilities that we pay for with our property taxes. In that way, we could easily pay for stormwater infrastructure without raising our taxes.
SalVinio
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July 24, 2013
no more taxes! commissioners would love some new tax to pay for some obscene new projects for their friends to cash in big with millions in profits. enough is enough!
ole man
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July 24, 2013
Most tax payers are not aware of the slight of hand with the water department. Storm water lines are out of site and out of mind, prudent officials know maintaining these pipes is necessary but choose to spend the money on more visible projects. After all the uneducated voter will vote to tax themselves 90% of the time.
SC Observer
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July 24, 2013
"a lot of those pipes are getting old and are getting close to the end of their useful life,”

Amusing. The Romans built aqueducts with concrete over 2,000 years ago that are still in use today, but Cobb County can't build a storm water system that lasts 30 years.

The proposal for a storm water tax is just a grab for more money that will be misspent by the political elite.

Tar, feathers, rail. Some assembly required.
Pat H
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July 24, 2013
Cobb government has raided the water fees and placed them in their spending pot for whatever as well as the streetlight fees which have produced large amounts not needed for the streetlights and should have returned to those taxpayers who pay extra on their water bills for streetlights.
why, the climate?
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July 24, 2013
1.

As soon as the Cobb County Commission passes a resolution proclaiming that "The Climate, It Is Changing," I will glady pay their rain tax.

2.

Storm water run off is an issue because it runs off the hardened ground we call "roads." Let's rename it the "roads flash flood fee" and add it to the gasoline tax or to toll fees so the direct beneficiaries of the supposedly public infrastructure which effectively requires a private vehicle to make any use of, roads, pay for (yet another of) the problems attributable to the roads and the private motor coaches upon them

On the other hand, let's allow the roads to flood and wash away the dumbest people. Perhaps that is not such a bad idea. If one plays (or ever played) high school football we can declare it a tragedy and place a pile of trash at the site.
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