Select Board Needs To Fix Poor Communication & Implementation Planning
Thu, 11/05/2020 - 4:00pm Heraldgroton
To Groton Select Board:
On 10/23/2020, all property owners of Groton were surprised by a bill from the Town of Groton that was not expected, nor adequately explained.
A very obtuse explanation of Stormwater Utility Fee was included on the back of the bill with only two "fine print" references to two html documents for support.
As a result of the lack of clarity on the part of the town, I personally spent hours researching the background of the requirements driving this fee and the implementations from other towns. I am not writing to complaining about "my taxes" nor am I opposed at all to paying a fair fee for a legally required mandate that can improve our quality of life.
However, I have researched the process that created the Stormwater Utility Enterprise Fund and the major Town Meeting articles that created it. I am writing to make clear the poor implementation of this in the town of Groton and make a major recommendation for its implementation FY2022.
Today, October 27, 2020, the town has finally posted explanations about what this fund is and the process that created it. The documents that were posted on the town Web site, fully a week after the bills were printed on October 20, explains most of the process and decisions made by the town.
This should have been done BEFORE the bills were mailed or as in insert along with the bills. Extremely poor communication on the part of the Select Board, Town Manager, and the DPW.
Today's explanation from Mark Haddad clarified questions that I had, though it left me with one additional issue. I now finally know that a decision was made to simplify the billing process by charging each parcel owner a flat fee per parcel regardless of the parcel's stormwater impact.
Our current bill of $42.27 appears to be based on an FY2021 budget of $188,800 due to the late start on this work. Based on the annualized budget of $220,000, does the Town expect our bills to go up to $47.25 in FY2022? There appears to be some issues with the way this is presented in Mr. Haddad's document with Mr. Giger's motion: "I move that the sum of Two Hundred Twenty Thousand Dollars ($188,800), be transferred from Stormwater Facilities User Fees Receipts to be expended by the Town Manager, to operate the Fiscal Year 2021 Stormwater Facilities Utility Enterprise as follows...". Is the budget $220,000 or $188,800 or will this be rebudgeted subject to Town Meeting each year?
Residential properties should NOT pay the same as commercial properties and non-profits that have large parking lots and lots of impervious rooftop area creating stormwater runoff. Many towns including Westford and Shrewsbury handle these differently.
While there is a similar rate implied for square footage of impervious area, the commercial properties and non-profits pay more for their large buildings (roof runoff ) and parking lots. For expediency, you came up with an inherently unfair system in which the residential homeowners are subsidizing commercial and non- profit interests.
Mr. Town Manager, I request that you do the work necessary to present a "usage-based" fee structure for the next fiscal year.
I am not opposed to the Stormwater Utility, given the legal requirements, but your poor communication and limited implementation planning needs to be corrected for FY2022!
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