By JOHN SCOTT COOPER, Staff Writer
The fix sounds simple — double the fees and rates for water and sewer service for customers in the Pierce County area that was recently de-annexed out of the City of Waycross. It’s not simple.
The new rate schedule the city commissioners approved this week might not make anyone happy. Certainly the city government won’t recoup all the revenue it would have gotten in city taxes if those customers were still inside the city limits.
When the commissioners voted Tuesday to implement a new fee structure they imposed on themselves a less than a month deadline — by the end of July.
Waycross was forced out of Pierce County by House Bill 523, local legislation introduced in the legislature by Rep. Chad Nimmer.
In response, the city sued for the courts to find the law unconstitutional and asked Judge Kelly Brooks for an injunction to halt or delay the implementation of the law because it would “do irreparable harm.” Brooks ruled against the city, saying there would be no harm because Waycross could legally continue to operate its utilities outside the city limits.
But Waycross will lose more than $34,000 in tax revenues from businesses no longer paying city taxes — even with increased water and sewer fees.
The biggest loss will be $19,737 from Stewart Candy Co. which previously paid more than $56,000 in taxes and had a water bill of $1,800. Stewart is due to pay half a year’s taxes and its utility bill is now doubled, but that won’t make all up the lost taxes.
And there will be losses from a couple of other businesses, a residence, a church and a subdivision. Part of those losses will be made up by the doubled fees on the other customers, including the church, and some commissioners wish there was another option besides raising the church’s fees.
Commissioners said on July 1 that the main reason they were continuing to supply water and sewer service to the area wass because the church would suffer if it was cut off.