Businesses, churches and schools with a lot of land could see a big jump in how much they have to pay for Greenwood’s stormwater utility.
The rate isn’t going up, but a $100 a month cap could be going away.
Owners of large businesses and other big properties that had been paying $100 a month for stormwater services could have to pay as much as $2,500 a month next year, depending on the size of their parking lots and roofs, utility director Lissa Rullman said.
The Greenwood City Council is considering lifting the cap on stormwater bills so that everyone pays a fair and appropriate amount for how much rainwater actually flows off their property, council president Bruce Armstrong said. Much more water runs off a large warehouse or shopping center than flows off a home, so those businesses pay more than homeowners for stormwater service.
Here’s a look at what you pay for Greenwood stormwater service and what you’d pay if the Greenwood City Council approves a proposal:
$5 rate for homeowners
$100 monthly cap for businesses, schools, churches and other large properties
Under new proposal
$5 rate for homeowners
$1,250 to $2,500 monthly rate is what some businesses and other large property owners will owe after the caps are lifted, but the amount will vary depending on the size of buildings and parking lots. Greenwood also will offer credits to such property owners that would cut their bills.
$31,000 annual amount that Greenwood schools will have to pay, but the city is looking at credits for educational programs about stormwater that could reduce the bill
Who approves it
The city stormwater board approved the new rate proposal. The Greenwood city council still must approve the proposal.
Homeowners will continue to owe $5 a month, under a new rate proposal the stormwater board approved. The council still must approve the proposal.
Rates will be much higher for larger properties such as the 230-acre Greenwood Municipal Airport. Airport manager Ralph Hill for instance said the airport would have to pay an estimated $1,400 a month in stormwater fees.
Stormwater bills would increase for the big warehouses and factories in the Precedent South Business Center east of Interstate 65.
Larry Siegler is chief operating officer of The Peterson Co., which originally developed the business park. He said he’s been getting calls from the businesses in Precedent South about the higher bills.
“They’re not happy,” he said. “It just adds another cost of doing business.”
Some of the companies, which are mostly headquartered out of state, received notices from the city that their bill could be going up and wanted to know whether there would be any relief, Siegler said.
The Peterson Company owns a warehouse and vacant land in the park. They haven’t yet gotten notice on how much they and the business park tenants will have to pay next year, Siegler said.
“It depends on how the leases are set up, but some of the bills will pass through,” he said. “The landlords will have to eat all the costs in other cases.”
The Greenwood Park Mall also will have to pay higher stormwater fees for the rainwater that runs off its parking lot.
“Clearly any additional taxes and/or fees will have a negative impact on the tenants as they generally assume those added costs,” Simon Properties spokesman Les Morris said.
After the higher fees kick in, Tilson HR owner Brent Tilson expects to pay hundreds of dollars more a month for stormwater bills on his eastside office building. He said that the cost of doing business would go up, but that the stormwater utility was needed to take care of drainage needs in the community.
Tilson served on a community group that gave feedback to the city’s stormwater board and said he learned that Greenwood needed better drainage.
“We do need this,” he said. “And they came to what seems to be an equitable methodology with the rates.”
Tilson said the need for drainage repairs and improvements was evident, but the higher bills would still be a substantial cost for businesses.
Greenwood officials hope to give the owners of large businesses and other big properties some relief by offering credits that would lower their total bills.
Schools could get credits by teaching their students about how to help keep pollutants out of natural waterways. Businesses and churches could get credits by building rainwater-collection ponds and other drainage infrastructure that is bigger than the city requires, or by updating older infrastructure to meet current standards, Rullman said.
Utility officials are working out the details, such as how much bills could be reduced.
For now, schools, churches and businesses are bracing for a big bill.
“It’ll have a tremendous impact,” Greenwood Community Schools Superintendent David Edds said. “Bills will be several thousand dollars a month. It’s an unfunded mandate that the city put on us.”
Schools already have drainage infrastructure, such as rainwater collection areas. And they are required to install new infrastructure every time they do projects including changing the football field to artificial turf, Edds said.
But they now have to pay for stormwater expenses they were never billed for before, he said.
“It probably would have to come out of classroom funds,” he said. “We’ll pay about what we would for a new first-year teacher.”
After meeting with city officials, Greenwood Schools Director of Financial Services Randy Burns estimates that the district will have to pay about $31,920 a year for stormwater utility fees for all its properties.
“It could go to education expenses such as teachers or supplies,” he said. “It’s an unexpected expenditure. When it comes out of the budget, something else suffers.”
Edds said credits would lessen the monthly bills, but that the stormwater bills would still take a significant amount of money away from education.
Greenwood has been charging a monthly stormwater fee since May, when the city established a utility tasked with making sure that water flows where it’s supposed to and doesn’t back up or flood. The utility also keeps Greenwood in compliance with federal regulations aimed at making sure the water stays clean and free from motor oil, paint and other pollutants.
Franklin, Whiteland, and other local communities also have stormwater utilities. Whiteland charges higher bills for bigger buildings and parking lots, and, for instance, is charging Clark-Pleasant schools more than $30,000 in stormwater fees this year. Franklin, on the other hand, charges $15 a month for any building over 40,000 square feet. That means Franklin schools pay about $150 a month for stormwater service.
Greenwood charges higher bills based on the amount of rainwater that flows off any given property because that’s a greater responsibility for the utility, Rullman said. All property owners, including homeowners, businesses and governments, have to pay because they all generate runoff from rainwater, she said.
The average resident pays $60 a year, but businesses, churches and other local governments could face bills of $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000 per year, Rullman said.
Council member Ron Bates said many local companies would be stuck with another expense at a time when they are struggling. He said the increased bills would take money out of their businesses and could potentially prevent them from hiring more employees.
Stormwater bills would especially be a burden on nonprofit organizations, such as churches, that rely on donations from their parishioners, Bates said. They’ll have less money for ministries like Sunday school and mission trips, he said.
“It takes money away from ministry and outreach,” he said. “Instead of outreach, they’ll have to reach deeper in their pockets to pay this utility bill.”