A new drainage fee averaging $5.41 per month for Waco homeowners is set to kick in next month, though owners of properties with less than 500 square feet of nonabsorbent area can apply for an exemption.
The new city fees are meant to offset the cost of maintaining and expanding the city’s storm drains, curbs, gutters and other stormwater infrastructure. The city has identified 18 needed stormwater projects costing a combined $124 million. The fees are now expected to bring in $5.7 million annually to maintain a system that previously had no designated funding source, according to the city.
Each property’s fee is based on its impervious cover, or hard surfaces, including concrete and rooftops, that do not absorb rainfall. More impervious cover means the property sends more runoff into the stormwater system, and will have a higher stormwater fee. The fees will vary widely for commercial properties.
Multifamily residential properties, including apartment complexes, condos and mobile home parks, can get a 10% credit for volunteer efforts directly related to stormwater. That could mean building runoff retention devices or helping in cleanups along the Brazos River. Anything residents build needs to be certified, inspected annually and maintained by the residents.
About 6,500 parcels in the city have no more than 500 square feet of impervious cover, meaning owners would be exempt from any stormwater fee if they apply, public works director Amy Burlarley-Hyland said. That would add up to about $250,000 per year in exemptions.
During a meeting Tuesday, the Waco City Council took the first of four votes on the proposed 2021-22 budget. Waco City Manager Bradley Ford said the new budget includes grant funding for 12 new police positions, three new firefighters and additional protective clothing for the Waco Fire Department.
The budget also increases Waco’s contribution to tax incentives for incoming businesses through the Waco McLennan County Economic Development Corp. to $3 million. McLennan County matches that annual contribution, for a total of $6 million going into the fund next year.
The proposed budget accounts for $162 million in general fund expenditures and $161 in general fund revenue, an increase over the $154 million in expenditures and $146 million in revenue budgeted this year. Total operational expenditures would increase to $141 million, from $135 million this year. The proposal sets aside $181 million for the city’s four-year, $460 million capital improvements plan, $40 million of which would go to streets improvements.
The proposed property tax rate would drop to a little more than 76.7 cents per $100 property value, from a little more than 77.6 cents, the rate since 2013. With rising property values, property tax revenue still would increase by about 10.5%, or almost $8.3 million. About $1.5 million of the increase would be from properties newly added to the tax rolls, through either annexation or new development.
Waco City Council will hold a public hearing on the tax rate at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 in the Bosque Theater at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave.
Waco Mayor Dillon Meek thanked the council, staff and public for their role in the lengthy budgeting process, and said the city will soon have other significant decisions to make about how to spend federal coronavirus relief money provided through the American Rescue Plan.
“The budget as a finished project represents consensus, compromise, hard work, listening to the council and listening to our community,” Meek said. “I think it is exciting for me to see where our city is going, given what is reflected in this budget.”