Residents launch a petition against EBR’s stormwater utility fee

PRIDE-CHANEYVILLE, La. (BRPROUD)-More than 120 people from the Pride-Chaneyville area packed their local library Monday (October 17) evening.

Residents came prepared with questions about the city’s proposed new stormwater fee.

Citizens started a petition against the fee, and managed to collect more than 300 signatures.

“We don’t have a voice on this and I think it’s absolutely wrong,” said Pride-Chaneyville resident Robert Wallace. “I just think taxation without representation is wrong.”

The stormwater utility fee appears on residents’ property tax bills. Some property owners see it as more of a tax. Councilman Brandon Noel says he agrees.

“If it looks like a tax, it smells like a tax. It doesn’t matter what you call this money coming out of people’s pockets,” said Councilman Brandon Noel, District 1.

The fee comes as East Baton Rouge Parish faces pressure from state and federal regulators to fix flood risks and improve water quality. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says the fee will fund millions in drainage and maintenance.

During Monday’s meeting, city-parish spokesman Mark Armstrong addressed the public’s concerns, explaining why it’s a fee, not a tax.

“It’s just a fee for several reasons. Of course, there is a service charge in this case.
The fee would be assessed on the use of the stormwater system,” Armstrong said.

District One residents say they are not dealing with the same drainage issues. Some say they will pay for something they don’t need.

“Maybe one solution to the problem is to break the whole plan down by district and turn around and say, ‘hey district one doesn’t need this,'” said Pride-Chaneyville resident Randy Belter.

The public cannot vote on this fee because council members have declared the stormwater system a public utility. That means council members can impose the fee without having to bring the issue before voters as a tax based on property values.

Councilman Aaron Moak says he doesn’t feel comfortable voting on the tax right now.

“At this point, as far as the lack of information that we need and all these NDA agreements, I mean right now, I can’t pass this,” Moak said.

The following public sessions are planned:

  • Tuesday, October 18: at the Charles R. Kelly Community, 3535 Riley St. from 18:30 to 20:00
  • Thursday, October 20: at the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library, 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, October 24: at the Fairwood Branch Library, 12910 Old Hammond Hwy. from 18:30 to 20:00
  • Tuesday, October 25: at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will vote on the tax on Oct. 26.

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