City of Ft Lauderdale

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New Fort Lauderdale Stormwater Rates: What You Need To Know

Fort Lauderdale has enacted a new procedure for who pays for stormwater as well as new rates.  The good news is that condominium and cooperative associations will no longer have a monthly charge for stormwater management fees.  The bad news is individual unit owners will see this charge on their annual tax bill – which is due in November 2020.

The City Commission approved the new billing methodology at two regular commission meetings on June 2 and June 16, 2020 and will vote on the 2021 rates on September 14.  The rates quoted in this article are the ones proposed by the consultant.

The new Stormwater Utility fee methodology for associations incorporates both acreage (total land square footage) and trip generation rates.  An individual unit owner’s stormwater yearly bill will be determined using these two components.

  1. Acreage: association’s land acreage, and,
  2. Trip Charge: estimated number of trips generated per day for each unit (based on a trip methodology developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers).  These trips are then assigned a cost per trip.

Together, these two components constitute the yearly stormwater charge for individual unit owners that will appear on their annual tax bill.  The plan is the two components share the costs at an 80:20 ratio. This is true for all property types. 

BACKGROUND

Currently, Fort Lauderdale residents pay a monthly stormwater fee through their utility bills.  Every utility bill has a line that identifies stormwater fees and is assessed as follows:

  • Single Family Home (3 or less units): $14/month ($168 yearly)
  • Multifamily Dwelling (4 units or more): $141.12 per acre/month ($1,693.44/acre yearly)
  • Unimproved Land: $44.73 per acre/month ($536.76/acre yearly)

These fees generate revenues used by the city to protect against water runoff that can accumulate in streets, on property, underpasses, and overflow seawalls.  The city Public Works Department oversees the stormwater operations and repairs/replacements to the systems used to drain the stormwater. Operations, maintenance, repair and replacement capital projects cost approximately $15.5 million per year and are funded through the stormwater fees charged to utility customers.

The city is experiencing serious stormwater issues in most areas of Fort Lauderdale.  The city commission has identified seven areas of greatest need.  In order to provide the capital for these seven projects, the city needs to raise $200 million in FY 2021.  The city commission approved a study of the stormwater fees by Stantec (the same firm that did the Water and Sewer Rate Study).  Stantec reported back its findings to the city commission in a May 25, 2020 final report.

The goal is to ensure the Stormwater Utility has the resources needed to invest in and maintain the stormwater system that protects the City. The seven identified priority areas are:  Edgewood • River Oak • Dorsey Riverbend • Durrs Area • Progresso • Victoria Park • Southeast Isles.  According to the City Commission, the challenge was to the find a fair system to finance the needed $200 million stormwater capital improvements, without shifting the burden to one group over another group within the city.

STORMWATER SYSTEM

The Stormwater Operations program was developed to provide a dedicated operational focus to maintaining and improving the City of Fort Lauderdale’s stormwater infrastructure. The adoption of these fees and new fee structure are necessary to allow a special assessment to be imposed by the City to fund the capital costs to construct, reconstruct, repair, improve, and extend Stormwater Management Systems within the City of Fort Lauderdale.  Stormwater is a multi-jurisdictional operation, but the City operates, repairs, and maintains much of the stormwater infrastructure within City limits, including:

  • 183.5 miles of stormwater pipe
  • 1,151 manholes
  • 1,038 outfalls
  • 6 drainage wells
  • 8,848 catch basins

                  

BILLING CHANGES

Currently, the stormwater charge is part of the utility bill received monthly by the association.  It is the bill for water, wastewater, irrigation, sanitation (not applicable to associations) and stormwater.  The cost is paid by the individual or organization named on the utility account.  In the case of an association, the bill comes to the association and is paid by the association since they do not have individual meters for each unit.

That will change on October 1, 2020.  The new stormwater charges will appear on the individual’s annual tax bill as a non-ad valorem assessment.  The annual Fire-Rescue fee is an example of a non-ad valorem assessment.

NEW STORMWATER RATES

The City Commission will vote on the new stormwater rates on September 14, 2020 at a special meeting.  The proposed rates for single family homes will be a fixed, yearly charge of $258.26.

For condominium and cooperative individual owners, the charge will consist of two components:  Acreage and Trip Charge.

A unit owner’s yearly stormwater assessment will be calculated as follow, using the above two components.

  1. ACREAGE: Individual’s unit living area DIVIDED by total of all units’ living area (excluding common areas) to arrive at a percentage of ownership.  This percentage will then be multiplied TIMES parcel charge ($2,273.01/acre).
  2. TRIP CHARGE: 4.45 average annual daily trips generated from each condo unit X $4.19 per trip = $18.65 yearly (Trip rate is the average daily trips during a weekday from Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Trip Generation, 10th ed, 2017.)

Example: If the unit owner’s living area is 1,000 sq ft and the total living area of all units in the building is 100,000 sq ft – then 1,000 divided by 100,000 = 1% (unit owner’s share). If the association’s land acreage is 2 acres – then multiply 2 times $2,273.01/acre = $4,546.02 (total acreage charge).  This amount is then multiplied by the individual owner’s share of 1% (.01 x $4,546.02) = $45.46.   Combining the two:  $45.46 (acreage) + $18.65 (trip charge) = $64.11 – annual fee for stormwater on an individual’s tax bill for 2021.

These two added together will be an individual unit owner’s yearly stormwater bill. Each year, the city commission will set the acreage and trip charge – and will have to recalculate each association unit owner’s assessment.

There are similar fee structures for churches, businesses, commercial establishments, and others.  Currently, the renters or lessees of property pay the stormwater charge as part of the water and sewer utility bill (not in an association).  This new ordinance will shift that cost to the property owner’s tax bill.

The city’s website will have a GIS mapping system that shows each property in Fort Lauderdale and that property owner’s stormwater assessment. This is expected to be available by August.   

CONCLUSIONS

A one-page summary of this article is attached – and can be downloaded for distribution to owners to educate them on the new stormwater assessment they will see on this year’s tax bill and all future tax bills.    

The Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) met with and provided city commissioners, the mayor and staff background materials on this issue, making strong arguments that association individual owners should not bear an unfair share of the costs of the $200 million capital improvement projects and yearly maintenance.  While single family owners’ fees are increasing 54% – association fees (total of all individuals in the building) are increasing a greater percentage.

GMCA also made the argument that while having roadways free of water and always being passable would benefit property owners, it was pointed out that many others would greatly benefit, but not pay any of the costs.  These include vendors and contractors living outside of Fort Lauderdale, commuters, visitors, and delivery companies (FedEx, UPS, Amazon).

Unfortunately, the city has no way to tax or assess these users of our roadways for stormwater maintenance and improvements if they don’t own property in the city.  GMCA will continue to monitor this assessment to ensure associations are treated fairly and not over burdened by disproportionate costs.

 


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City Commissioner Heather Moraitis’ May 2020 Newsletter

In her May 2020 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Heather Moraitis empathizes with our mid-May frustration with home-bound pandemic containment. Recognizing the difficulty of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in one of the State’s most heavily infected regions, Moraitis extols the collective efforts of State, County and City officials to quickly implement a unilateral lock-down, sharpen medical response capabilities and fast-track regional testing outreach.

While also applauding thousands of District 1 constituents for swallowing hard and complying with an exasperating set of evolving restrictions, Moraitis declares that the time has come to jump-start the stalled economy by “safely and smartly venturing out when appropriate,” admonishing “Please continue to follow guidelines.”

Presumably, Moraitis alludes to City or County guidelines, since no jurisdiction in South Florida is remotely compliant with recovery prerequisites specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the White House Task Force. At the end of the day – each of us must balance this agenda with the wellbeing of our families.

Click here to read Commissioner Moraitis’ May Newsletter

 


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Update and City Resources Available on COVID-19

City Commissioner Heather Moraitis provided the following update from the City of Fort Lauderdale on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We appreciate the leadership, time and effort Commissioner Moraitis has put into helping guide our city during this unique health crisis. She has been fabulous in her communications to residents and Facebook posts, keeping us as up to date as possible, given how quickly events are changing in the city, county, state and federal government. The City of Fort Lauderdale has numerous emergency regulations in place regarding operations and services, buildings and facilities, openings and closures, public meetings, events, public gatherings, and promoting social distancing in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed. To see the latest updates on current regulations, please visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/coronavirus.

We also appreciate the leadership and commitment being made by County Commissioner Lamar Fisher and State Representative Chip LaMarca, both of whom have done an excellent job of communicating updated information to all of us.

Additional links to Centers for Disease Control, Department of Business and Professional Regulations, and Broward County Sheriff about actions on Coronavirus can be found on the Regency Tower website.


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City Commissioner Heather Moraitis Feb/Mar 2020 Newsletter

Commentary: In her February – March 2020 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Heather Moraitis opens by inviting constituents to attend the March 14 home opener of Major League Soccer (MLS), as David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF team was poised to confront the L.A. Galaxy (his former team) in the sports complex recently erected on the site that used to house Lockhart Stadium.

Taking a page from the NBA, the NHL the Miami Open and Major League Baseball, two days before the game, Major League Soccer postponed its season, placing the contest on hold. As the Coronavirus was still a cloudy enigma, a delighted Moraitis notes how events conspired to provide the City (and District 1 residents) with 2 new stadiums and an impressive laundry list of recreational amenities – courtesy of David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise.

Moraitis also looks at the first 7 of 150 planned Infrastructure projects, sewer repairs and tips that may help the city dodge future blockages, how the Reiss Report redefined the City’s Comprehensive Utility Master Plan, the Corollo Report recommendations for the Fiveash Water Plant, LauderBriefs that update City Commission meetings, a pictorial summary of recent events and how to flag FPL about street light outages. Ironically, about one week after the Commissioner issued this Newsletter, COVID-19 took the planet hostage.

Read on for Commissioner Moraitis’ February – March 2020 message to constituents.  

 

 


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City Commissioner Heather Moraitis’ November 2019 Newsletter

City Commissioner Heather Moraitis’ November 2019 Newsletter

Commentary

*In her November 2019 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Heather Moraitis addresses the concerns of her Telephone Town Hall Meeting participants, outlining City plans to mitigate the adverse impacts of sea level rise by implementing long-delayed infrastructure improvements and citing detailed Master Plan objectives to contain stormwater threats and strengthen seawalls. Moraitis also invites constituents to attend the annual Light up the Galt, visit Santa on the Beach, snatch a free tree from the City, and serve on a municipal board.

Public Works Band-Aids or Resiliency?

In aspiring to resiliency, Fort Lauderdale had to change the primary beneficiaries of its municipal maintenance protocols. No longer solely placating the Developers, speculators and other deep-pocketed transient property owners (mostly major campaign contributors), the City Commission suddenly shunned a decades-long predisposition for inexpensive firehouse-style repairs in favor of sustainable development – finally addressing the needs of current and future long-term residents.

Growing Number of Exploding Water Mains

For decades, City Administrations neglected sewer systems, water treatment & distribution venues, storm drains and seawalls for fear of how increasing the millage might undermine their prospects for re-election. Also left to rot were roads, sidewalks, traffic control systems, parks, municipal structures (i.e. FLPD Headquarters, City Hall, etc.), canals, bridges, and other municipal infrastructure.

Instead of adapting inadequate infrastructure to meet the exigencies of advanced deterioration, commercial expansion and population growth, Commissioners restricted allocations to repairing catastrophic failures in aging sewers, storm drains and water lines that were originally built to service the city’s population when it was a fraction of its current size.

Despite repeated City assurances of infrastructure sufficiency, the increasing frequency of exploding water mains, sewer failures and backflowing storm drains often immersed entire neighborhoods knee-deep in seawater. Minimizing the specter of infrastructure collapse, water and sewer funds were annually hijacked and used to balance the budget.

A cyclone of public blowback pressured the City to empanel an infrastructure task force, and quantify the structural and financial impact of ongoing chronic maintenance failures. Official findings confirmed that the City’s future functionality would minimally cost $1.4 billion to salvage heavily eroded infrastructure, $1 billion for stormwater improvements, and roughly another half $billion to upgrade roads, seawalls, sidewalks, bridges, etc. Whether financed through bond issues or direct levy, taxpayers and ratepayers will have to cough up roughly $3 billion to help secure the City’s future.

Stantec vs. the Galt Mile

Eleven years ago, Galt Mile officials uncovered a shell game in a Water & Sewer rate schedule created by City consultant Burton & Associates. While publicly applauding the plan’s standardized rate tiers for all residential customers, City officials never mentioned how an accompanying block rate schedule forced multi-family homeowners to subsidize their counterparts in Single Family homes.

After a decade of fighting to mitigate this abuse, Galt Mile officials finally achieved rate parity for association homeowners in September 2019, when the City Commission approved the proposed 2020 Water & Sewer rates. Since city consultant Stantec acquired Burton & Associates in 2016, the same “expert” who created the billing disparity in 2009 was integrally involved with the new rate schedule, and had attempted to once again skew multi-family Water & Sewer rates.

With the support of City Commissioners Heather Moraitis, Steve Glassman, Ben Sorensen, Robert McKinzie and Mayor Dean Trantalis, Stantec’s poison pill was excised, and an equitable new rate schedule was enacted. However, while Galt Mile water & sewer customers finally won a level playing field, Stantec was planning to create a new billing disparity – in a proposed formula for Stormwater rates. 

Burton – An Old Dog with Old Tricks

The City’s projected $1 billion stormwater plan will allocate the proceeds of an initial $200 million bond issue to control the watersheds in the 7 City neighborhoods most vulnerable to flooding – including Dorsey Riverbend; Durrs, Edgewood, Progresso, River Oaks, Southeast Isles and Victoria Park. Funding these projects will require a 54 percent increase in stormwater rates. Instead of assessing ratepayers a citywide 54 percent price hike, the Wonder Boys in Stantec decided to impose a 34% premium on Single Family homes while burdening association homeowners with a crushing 84% cost increase.

Not surprisingly, the basis for this new disparity has no relationship to a property’s exposure to stormwater impacts nor the actual cost of mitigating those impacts. As such, Galt Mile officials will have to educate Commissioners about the inherent inequity in Stantec’s formula, while illuminating a predilection of Stantec Guru Michael Burton to craft irrational criteria that fiscally abuses association homeowners 

Otherwise, association homeowners will once again be forced to subsidize their neighbors in Single-Family homes, an outcome that has long resonated with Mr. Burton. For District 1 Commissioner Heather Moraitis’ November 2019 message to constituents, see elsewhere in this edition. – [editor]*