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Question All Fees and Taxes

by Brian Roland, Orlando, January 2016

 

For the first time in more than two decades, Hillsborough County, Florida increased stormwater fees for the 2015 tax year.

 

The stormwater fee is a non-ad valorem tax, therefore, it is not calculated according to value. It is based on square footage. Most property owners are unaware of how the tax is determined so they just assume it is correct.

 

Fee Increases 150%

 

The Hillsborough County staff initially recommended a 200% increase in the stormwater fee but County Commissioners said that was too steep. They approved an increase of 150%. As a result, many property owners saw a huge jump in their bill.

 

The fee assessment increased from $.01 per 1.5 square feet (sf) of impervious area to $.025 per 1.5 sf. Impervious surfaces include any hard surface that does not absorb water and impedes the natural flow of water into the soil such as buildings, roofs, parking lots, etc.

 

Check the Math

 

Even though there is no formal appeal process to challenge stormwater fees, it makes sense to double check the numbers.

 

By reviewing the 2014 stormwater assessment versus the 2015 fees, POER found the county had incorrectly calculated the impervious area on numerous properties. We contacted the county and were able to save one client an estimated $25,000 in stormwater fees.

 

Even though this example occurred in Tampa, the same scenario could happen anywhere. The moral of the story is taxpayers should always question their taxes and fees to avoid overpayments.