Cary News

Developers, property owners in Morrisville get new fee

Developers who build in Morrisville will now face a new $23 stormwater fee for every 2,800 square feet of property on their next tax bill.

For months the Morrisville Town Council has debated how much to charge in order to pay for an expanded $550,000 stormwater program.

Proposed fees have ranged from $10 to $45 per equivalent residential unit or ERU per 2,800 square feet.

The council voted to charge $23 Tuesday, saying it was a compromise that would allow the town to preserve its unassigned fund balance or savings account.

The council made the change after reviewing the 2013 draft $24.4 million budget Tuesday. Under the proposed budget, the ERU would have been $15 and raised about half of the needed revenue. The rest would have come from various accounts including the unassigned fund balance.

It’s the town’s policy to keep the unassigned fund balance between 25 percent and 45 percent. Between 2014 and 2015, the fund balance is expected to dip below policy levels which concerned several council members

Councilman Steve Rao, who suggested the hike, said he didn’t want to consider raising the fee but said it was needed to preserve the town’s “financial solvency.”

Councilwoman Liz Johnson supported Rao’s proposal because she said the town needed to look beyond this year’s budget.

“I think we all understand this could be harmful to next year’s budget,” Johnson said. “Steve (Rao) makes a point. He’s looking ahead, not dipping into fund balance so much, and I think that’s a wise thing to do.”

But not every council member was on board with the $23 ERU fee.

Council members Margaret Broadwell, Michael Schlink and Mark Stohlman wanted to keep the fee at $15.

Stohlman said he was against raising the fee because it would hurt new developers the most, when it’s older stormwater systems that need the new program.

“We’re going to hit new development with a huge bill when they are the ones with the state of the art (stormwater facilities),” Stohlman said.

Given that the program is new, he said, it made more sense to “test drive” the $15 fee and re-examine it next year to see if it needs to be increased.

Stohlman said he didn’t believe staff projections that the fund balance would dip below policy levels, because of savings in lapsed salaries, delayed hiring and business growth.

However, Budget Manager Jeanne Hooks pointed out the town was able to benefit in previous years from one-time infusions of cash such as $900,000 left over from completed construction projects. Morrisville was also saved last year from having to transfer $500,000 from the fund balance thanks to the U.S. Census. Due to population growth, the state increased Morrisville’s per capita sales tax allocation.

The Council has not yet approved the draft budget. The public hearing has been extended to June 12. The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. at 100 Town Hall Drive in Morrisville.