New fee will help address street maintenance concerns

img_6931

By Aubrey Nettles, Special Projects Coordinator

While the results of our 2016 citizen survey last spring were enlightening, they were hardly surprising.

We weren’t at all surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of our residents think College Station is a terrific place to live, work, and raise a family. We were proud that our overall city services got high marks, along with the value of the services you receive for your tax dollars.

When it came to what services our residents deem most important, we weren’t surprised, either. Public safety, managing traffic congestion, and maintaining our roadways and were at the top of the list.

The survey also revealed the biggest gaps between the importance and quality of our services. With our rapid growth, we weren’t surprised to see a 70-point gap between the importance (98 percent) and quality (28 percent) for managing traffic congestion.

What seized our attention was the 51-point gap for street maintenance. While 99 percent said maintaining our roads was an important service, only 48 percent gave us a good or excellent rating. That represented a 23-point drop from the 2012 survey, the biggest decline in any city service.

City council takes action

Those numbers also commanded the attention of the city council. During the FY17 budget process, the council began considering roadway maintenance fees to help address the maintenance needs of that vital infrastructure. After two public hearings and much deliberation over several months, the council voted in November to implement the fees starting Jan. 1.

The roadway maintenance fee will be paid by citizens and businesses within the city limits, based on their reasonably equitable share in the total impact on the road system. The fee will appear as a line item on your utility bill, with the revenue dedicated entirely to the maintenance and rehabilitation of our streets. That means the funds can’t be used for anything else.

Many cities in Texas are facing the same issue of road maintenance needs outpacing property and sales tax revenue. Others with variations of a roadway maintenance fee include Bryan, Austin, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Lampasas, Taylor, and Richwood. Our neighbors in Bryan began assessing a transportation fee in 2004 that’s improved the quality of its road system.

How much do I pay?

Travel characteristics of specific land uses were used to develop the fee schedule. For residential properties, a flat monthly rate of $7.78 will be assessed to single-family homes and $6.10 to multi-family units. Bryan residents pay $12 a month.

Non-residential properties will be placed in one of five tiers ranging from $17.23 for properties that generate little road use to $250 for properties that create the most road use. For example, a small office building is expected to cause much less traffic than a large retail business, so it pays a lower fee.


Vehicle Miles Generated/Day Monthly Charge
Non-Residential
Tier I 0 – 23.99 $17.23
Tier II 24.00 – 43.99 $38.71
Tier III 43.99 – 90.99 $74.71
Tier IV 91.00 – 223.99 $152.39
Tier V 224.00 + $250.00
Residential
Single Family Flat fee/dwelling unit $7.78
Multi-Family Flat fee/dwelling unit $6.10

What determines the non-residential tiers?

The tiers for non-residential properties are based on the amount of roadway traffic generated by the land use, the size of the property, and an industry-standard trip generation factor. The 65 land use categories for the roadway fee are consistent with other city transportation initiatives.

The size of each property depends on its land use. For example, office buildings are measured by floor area, gas stations are measured by the number of fueling positions, and hotels are measured by the number of rooms. The trip generation factor for each land use — a function of the number and length of vehicle trips — is determined by the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Trip Generation Manual.

The amount of the fee based on a final trip value derived from the property size and the trip generation factor.

Our residents made clear in the citizen survey that they expect our streets to be properly maintained and rehabilitated. In the long run, additional resources dedicated to maintenance will save taxpayer money by deferring costly reconstruction projects.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-3423 or anettles@cstx.gov.

 


15171088_10109275789026314_9222973594705679303_n1About the Author

Aubrey Nettles is in her third year as special projects coordinator in the City Manager’s Office. She previously served as executive assistant to the Fort Bend County Commission and was a management analyst for Harris County. A native of Smithville, Aubrey earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston in 2012 and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas A&M in 2010.  


 

If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!

 

 

3 responses

  1. I find this type of “fee” reprehensible. More than that, the actions of the City of College Station to sell the public on this is absurd. The City should not be building roads that it can’t properly maintain. I’m not allowed to build a new house, perform little-to-no maintenance, then go take money from others when it needs repairs.

    By taxing – and that is what this “fee” really is – residential and business customers, you are creating a double tax on the residents. Business will have to adjust their prices to account for the increased tax, passing on the expense to the consumer.

    What about the thousands of students here in town? What percentage of them actually pay their own utility bills? The countless families that sacrifice to send and pay for their children to attend college here are just getting another expense lumped on top of everything else – plus, that means that people that are never/rarely here will actually be paying this new tax.

    Basing a decision on a survey with a less than 25% response rate seems irresponsible and irrational.

    With a nearly $400 million annual budget (up 10.15% from FY16), it seems that some trimming of the fat could be found to drum up the estimated $4.5 million in revenue this new tax will steal from the residents.

    January 4, 2017 at 9:50 am

    • First, thanks for reading our post and taking the time to give us feedback.

      No surprise: In spite of the public meetings where the then-proposed fee was discussed and debated by our city council, and the local newsrooms that covered the issue, we continue to answer questions from citizens who want a little more detail about how the roadway maintenance fee will be collected and used. It can be a confusing issue, so we’re glad to take additional time to explain.

      It’s worth noting that the city doesn’t build every street; instead, residential developers do and those streets obviously require ongoing maintenance. Unfortunately the available funds allocated annually for street repair don’t cover the real needs of the entire city. Oftentimes, some of those funds get diverted to cover unexpected, urgent needs, such as infrastructure that supports a major public or private development that wasn’t previously on the city’s work plan.

      Like you, many folks prefer labeling this a tax, rather than a fee — and that’s not an unfair assumption. The distinction, in this case, is that tax revenue can be used to pay for many services, while a fee is calculated to address a specific service on a cost-recovery basis. That’s how this roadway maintenance fee will work.

      You mentioned the thousands of students who live here. Those who live off campus will pay either the $6.10 or $7.78 monthly fee; most will split that cost with roommates to bring the monthly expense down to less than two dollars per month.

      The statistically valid citizen survey you referenced was conducted by a professional firm in order to ensure demographic and geographic balance. The margin of error was extremely low, which gave city leadership confidence in both the positive and negative feedback contained in the responses — we received plenty of both.

      The city’s FY17 budget isn’t quite $400 million, but it is just shy of $341 million. Of that amount, $75.6 million is contained in our General Fund, which pays for police, fire/EMS, public works, parks and recreation, planning and development services, and general government support functions. Just over $116 million is budgeted for our utilities, and more than $108 million is earmarked for a variety of important capital improvement projects.

      The roadway maintenance fee — similar to, but less than what the City of Bryan has assessed its customers for more than a decade — is projected to comprise less than two percent of our overall revenues in FY17. But that’s a very important amount because it will be spent where it’s needed most, which is in neighborhoods that have endured deferred street maintenance for far too long. Residents told us so in our citizen survey and they continue to tell our city council members at every opportunity.

      If you’d like to discuss the roadway maintenance fee in greater detail, our staff would welcome the opportunity. Call us at 979.764.3500 — we look forward to it.

      January 5, 2017 at 10:45 am

  2. Pingback: Higher CS Utility Bills Start This Month - WTAW | WTAW

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s