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Orlando City Council approves steep increase in stormwater fees

Chart showing Orlando's stormwater revenues and costs.
City of Orlando
A chart presented by Orlando Public Works Director Corey Wright shows projected stormwater revenues, debts and expenditures both with a fee increase and without that increase. City commissioners approved the increase on Monday.

The Orlando City Council voted Monday to increase the city's residential stormwater fees by amounts ranging from 52% to 131% over the next four years.

Commercial fees will also more than double.

It’s Orlando’s first increase in stormwater fees in 15 years. But numerous homeowners spoke during a public hearing, objecting to the amount and the perceived unfairness of it. Some emphasized the negative impact on older homeowners with fixed incomes.

The vote was five to one, with Commissioner Tony Ortiz voting against it.

Public Works Director Corey Wright told commissioners construction costs have soared and the increase is needed.

"We don't necessarily want to do this," he said, "but we had to borrow $17 million last year just to fund our stormwater program. And at the rate we're going we cannot keep that up."

The smallest fee -- for a home with just 1,000 square feet of impermeable surfaces like the roof, driveway and sidewalk -- will increase by 52% to $127 a year.

Fees for larger homes -- with 2,500 square feet or more of impermeable surface -- will increase the most to $318 dollars a year.

One homeowner, Brett Giardiello, told commissioners the increase is "regressive" and, with the 2,500-square-foot cap, is not proportionate.

"If Bill Gates moved into this town and bought a $10 million house," Giardiello said, "he'd be paying the same stormwater fee as me. It's nonsense. It doesn't make any sense at all."

Monday's decision also requires a study to help the city re-evaluate current discounts and fee caps.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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