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Vote No On Aug 5th Storm Water Ballot

The Jackson City Council adopted a resolution putting the Storm Water Fee to a public vote on the August 5th ballot. The proposed ordinance language adds various sections to Article VI of Chapter 27 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Jackson, Michigan to bring Chapter 27 of the Code of Ordinances to authorize a charge for storm water control that is reasonably proportionate to the direct and indirect costs of providing storm water control services.

Make sure you're aware of all the consequences that will result from this new charge.

Who Will Pay It and How Much Will We Pay?

1. Every property in the city will have to pay into the system, including schools, churches, non-profit organizations and county parks. The ordinance specifically states that no property, private or public, shall be exempt from the fee.

2. The city has not told us what this is going to cost. The ordinance allows the city to charge any amount necessary to cover their “direct and indirect costs” for everything from maintaining to expanding the storm water system and controlling everything that might get into it. This proposal gives the city a blank check to charge us whatever they want to spend without asking for our approval on the amounts or on the formulas to determine the amounts. 

3. If the city decides they want to spend more money on storm water related projects, they can raise the fees without a vote of the people. There is no cap on how much the city can charge us. 

4. The city recently raised downtown parking fees and there have been discussions about asking for more money in the form of a millage in November to pay for street repairs. It’s a scary plan, “more fees now and more taxes later”.

What Will the Money Be Used For?

5. Direct and indirect costs could include the purchase of machinery used in maintaining the storm water system such as trucks, backhoes, specialized street sweepers, bulldozers, paving equipment… virtually any piece of equipment the city uses.

6. The ordinance defines the storm water system as: “ roads, streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, storm sewers, and appurtenant features such as lakes, ponds, channels swales, canals, creeks” (and on and on) “and other like facilities”. Virtually everything in the city is covered by the ordinance, including our driveways, and it gives them a blank check to do anything they deem appropriate to those areas.

7. Under the ordinance, the city can charge residents for: “planning, engineering, acquisition, construction, operations, maintenance, installation and debt service cost to acquire, construct, finance, operate and maintain a storm water system”. Further it includes the following activities: “acquiring, constructing, improving, enlarging, repairing, enhancing, replacing, financing, operating, and maintaining the storm water system, together with … indirect and overhead costs”. They offer no information on what this might cost or what even needs to be done this year or any future year.

8. If the city chooses to make a capital improvement to the storm water system adjacent to your property, you will still be required to pay the normal assessment, as in the past, in addition to the storm water fee, which, by ordinance, is supposed to pay for all the costs without reference to assessments.

What If We Refuse to Pay It?

9. The rules and regulations apply to all existing property within the city.  “No person shall construct or maintain any property not in compliance with the standards of this article.” That could mean there is no grandfathering of existing buildings. The very minute you maintain your property; you must be in compliance with all the rules and regulations. For businesses, that means massive additional costs to simply repave a parking lot.

10. If you don’t comply, you can be fined up to $10,000 per day and do jail time.

How would this charge harm the city?

11. Those with taxing authority, like schools and governments, might have to ask for greater millage to pay the additional cost of the new fees.  It could reduce our property values because the tax rate and fees in the city will be so high compared to the townships that few people will want to own property in the city.

12. The already declining tax base of the city will be further threatened because of declining property values and businesses leaving the city for suburban locations. The city could choose to make up the difference by charging more to those of us left behind.

13. It could harm Jackson Public Schools because residents will leave the district to live in surrounding townships with more reasonable taxes and fees.

14. When businesses leave the city, they take jobs out of city along with the income taxes those people paid while working in the city.

Is The City Overstepping Its Authority?

15. The ordinance provides that city employees may access our properties and buildings anytime to inspect or test. All they need to do is present their identification badge and you must let them in. That is more power than the police have to enter your property. This is an infringement of the citizen’s privacy rights, which are protected under the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution. This ordinance may well violate the constitution.

16. The ordinance, in effect, creates a drain commissioner for the city, with even more power than the county drain commissioner.

We’ve been told the ordinance will restore the services that the storm water fee funded (extra street sweeping, catch-basin and gutter cleaning and curb-side leaf pickup), but no one’s talking about all the other rules and regulations that are much more expensive and wide reaching. Why not just have a separate, optional fee for services or even a simple ordinance authorizing certain desired services like leaf pick-up?  

This information has been prepared to provide voters with information about the consequences that might result if the Storm Water Charge ballot question is passed. It has been reviewed by legal counsel. For more information and to help, contact Mindy Bradish-Orta, 517-782-8221, or write to: Citizens for a Better Jackson, PO Box 1741, Jackson, Michigan 49204

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