Some time back, Wayne Stormant at Fat Belly’s came up with a perfectly logical idea to help ease the budget crunch and pay to reduce the HUGH sewer bill.
In White Springs there are 477 parcels of land. 312 of those parcels are developed to some degree and have sewer hook – up’s. That leaves 165 parcels of land that are undeveloped and have no structure on them. If we charged each of these “worthless to the town” parcels with a $25.00 per month sewer and water non-tap fee, that would put $50,000.00 a year into the town treasury.
Such a move might actually get some of the owners of the properties to develop them with housing for new or existing residents. It might cause some of the owners to sell the property to an owner who would develop it for housing or business development. And it would make the owners, most of whom are absent owners, to be a part of the town and its growth, development and maintenance. None the less, owners with no interest in White Springs would try and find a buyer and sell the property. The town could then proceed to increase its tax base. Current residents who wanted to see White Springs grow MIGHT actually pick up some of these non-productive properties for “a song”.
At least some of the “vacant properties” are owned by people out of state and that got the property through inheritance. It will never be developed. Charging some money would move things along I believe and perhaps the buildings which should be condemned may be demolished and lots sold to new people wishing property in White Springs.
And a modification to the idea Wayne had could also work. If you add to the millage portion of the tax bill, not everyone will pay due to homestead exemption. Currently, 68.6% (327 parcels) of White Springs pay less than $100 per year in taxes. There are 477 parcels in WS, if each paid $100 per year, that would yield $47,700.”
The problem with this approach is that the people who are paying money now for taxes, what I call the 13%’ers because they are paying $200.00 in taxes or more after the homestead exemption, would take the same hit as someone who is paying less than $10.00 per year in taxes. And it is not just the poor who are owning these unproductive lots. Some, if not most, are really wealthy having gotten the land through inheritance. We shouldn’t CARRY these people simply because they won’t build on the property.
I say have them pay their share of the water and sewer costs. Say $25.00 per month while the rest of us, the 13% and a bunch of other folks are paying in excess of $100.00 per month for sewer and water costs. Let’s be fair about this.
I think the idea should be to have those people who are paying no tax or almost no tax to pay for the sewer and water pipes running in front or behind their properties.
Another consideration is to bill these empty lots as a Fire Department Service Fee of $100 annually for each lot. This money could go directly into the Fire Department for equipment and maintenance which is much needed or perhaps paying volunteers for each fire they fight.
The council needs to consider alternative ways to handle code enforcement and secure money rather than beating up the people for 10% utility taxes and high sewer rates. We’ll see if Mayor Lofty can come up with a plan or if he just let’s Rhett tell him what to do. You probably have guessed from observation that Mayor Lofty is not a leader but he makes a great follower and that is probably the reason Rhett chose him to be on the council.