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A two-year lawsuit between the City of Lubbock and a local resident and his steel company has finally come to a head – with a State District Court judge ruling in favor of the city.
John Beck and Beck Steel Inc. sued the city in 2015 claiming that storm water fees were being illegally used to pay down general obligation debt and that a refund was due to not only Beck Steel but Lubbock residents.
According to the city’s website, fees are intended to be used to, “meet federal and state regulatory requirements, protect water quality, and fund improvements to alleviate flooding across the City.” However, the city attorneys argued that because of its home-rule status – versus being a general rule city – it can spend such revenue as it sees fit.
The city’s audited financials from FY 2016 show that the city generated approximately $25 million from storm water fees, with about $11.5 million in expenses (pg. 42, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report). With these fees often grouped together with electric, wastewater, airport, and other related business fees, it is difficult to decipher what specific projects are being paid for with that revenue and what is done with the surplus.
With that aside, a quick online search of city storm water fees in Texas reveals why the rate amounts alone have spurred on frustration by Lubbock residents. For residential customers, Lubbock’s monthly storm water fees range from $8.80 to $25.58, while San Angelo, for example, ranges from $2 to $5 a month and Fort Worth ranges from $2.70 to $10.80 a month. San Antonio, Frisco, and University Park all show significantly lower rates as well.
Despite the judge’s ruling, Beck is not ready to back down as reports say he plans to appeal.
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