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Vero Council revives stormwater tax proposal voted down in 2017


While most city residents are in a lockdown situation and are preoccupied with the coronavirus and their health, Vero Beach is rolling out an old plan to tax its utility customers in the city limits.

On this Tuesday’s agenda was a staff proposal brought forth by Councilman Joe Graves to impose a stormwater tax of $5 per month or more per customer, to be tacked onto city utility bills or maybe to be assessed on property tax bills as a special assessment. The easier and faster way to charge this tax is on utility bills.

The city’s aim is to use the stormwater tax to recover an estimated $600,000 in funds that Vero anticipates it will not be receiving from sales tax and other state tax revenue due to the coronavirus shutdown. If approved, the new tax would become effective Jan. 1.

The proposed $5 per month would be per Equivalent Residential Unit, based upon how much the average Vero Beach home is deemed by engineers to add to the stormwater runoff problem, so an individual homeowner or business could pay more or less.

Credits are available for efforts to mitigate runoff, but all of that would have to be processed and calculated by consultants or staff.

Proponents of a stormwater utility tax feel that protecting the lagoon from stormwater runoff with additional projects is so important that it needs its own enterprise fund, with its own revenue source apart from property taxes.

The stormwater tax is not a new idea, but today’s city council will likely be more friendly to the idea than previous, more fiscally conservative councils.

The idea of a stormwater tax came up and was shot down by the city council in February 2017.

At the time, then-Councilman Dick Winger and the Indian River Neighborhood Association were pushing the stormwater tax idea. Now it’s Graves who is pitching a new tax during a time when the city can’t really take public input in the normal way.

If people feel strongly, they can lodge their comments by email. Those who wish to speak can participate by phone, but it’s not the same as standing at the podium.

One person who is clearly on record opposing a stormwater tax – coronavirus economy or no coronavirus economy – is former Vero mayor Harry Howle.

In February 2017 Howle said, “It does nothing more than create another branch of government that will certainly grow along with the taxes associated with it.”

Should the City Council go forward, the city would need to hold public hearings on the proposed ordinance before it could become law.