Utility bills are about to get higher for Midland residents and business owners.
Midland city council voted Tuesday in support of establishing a Municipal Drainage Utility that would levy a residential and commercial stormwater fee beginning October 1. The fee is set to stay in place until it is revisited by city council in 2028 due to a sunset provision added during Tuesday’s meeting.
The decision to implement the fee was made despite seemingly widespread opposition from the community in the form of calls and emails to council members, letters in the local paper, and numerous people speaking against the measure at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“This is an unfair money grab … No matter how small it is, it’s a tax,” said one resident.
Another resident questioned why the council needed to assess a new fee when the uptick in the oil and gas industry has resulted in rising tax revenues. “I don’t understand, maybe you can explain, why we want a new tax right now when sales tax revenues are at an all-time high [and] property tax revenues are at an all-time high due to higher property values, more houses being sold, and more businesses moving in.”
Council members responded by stating that the area’s rapid population growth has increased drainage issues and that if a fee wasn’t assessed to address them now, a bond would likely be needed in the future. “I think this is a very conservative way to approach it … We’re trying to get ahead of it,” said Council Member Jeff Sparks referencing the “pay-as-you-go” method of a fee rather than a bond.
Structured in tiers, homeowners will pay between $1.20 and $3.40 in stormwater fees per month depending on the square footage of their home’s roofline, while business owners will pay between $5.80 and $220 a month based on the square footage of impervious surface on the property. According to city engineer Jose Ortiz, the city plans to revisit the fee structure in two years.
As it stands, the new fee is estimated to generate approximately $2.5 million in revenue annually and will be used over the next ten years to address various drainage projects identified by city staff.