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Stormwater plan worries schools
Officials say the fees could leave the district foundering financially.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published July 13, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino is predicting a feud with the County Commission.
It's all about the county's proposed stormwater runoff fee.
The bill could run into the millions per year, Fiorentino says - about $12,000 per high school and less for the others. It's money the school district can ill afford to divert from education needs, she adds.
She has urged School Board members to try to persuade commissioners to exempt the district from the charge.
"I personally don't believe that is something we should pay," the superintendent told the board this week during a budget workshop.
Duly noted, county officials respond. But they have no intention for now, anyway to do anything about it.
The school district made its case to the committee that drafted the fee proposal - assistant superintendent Ray Gadd even sat on the committee. In the end, though, the group opted to limit exemptions to just three categories: railroad tracks, public airport runways and paved public roads.
Otherwise, all owners of paved surfaces must pay toward the cost of managing storm runoff, about a $10-million annual cost, chief assistant county administrator Michele Baker said.
"The committee felt it was important that the school district and county government not be exempted," said Baker, who oversaw the process. "It's not what kind of use you are. It's, are you impervious or are you not?"
That means nonprofits, churches, government agencies and other land owners that generally do not pay property taxes will have to pay the fee, unless county commissioners change course.
That still could happen. The ordinance to impose the fee still must go through public hearings, as must the budget where the fee would be implemented.
"Obviously, the school district has the right to participate in the process, just like any other member of the public," Baker said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.