Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2001

DeSoto lagging behind in development fees

March 15, 2001

A survey of the rates assessed by nearby Johnson County communities shows DeSoto is lagging behind in fees charged for new development.

The DeSoto City Council addressed that disparity somewhat in its annual review of the city's excise tax. March 1, the city council raised the excise tax it assesses on newly platted land from 13 cents a square foot to 14 cents. The revenue will fund improvements to city streets, sidewalks and street lighting.

When discussion about the excise tax adjustment started in January, the council asked City Engineer Mike Brungardt to develop an excise tax option that considered other infrastructure costs. But when the city engineer presented his report justifying the 1-cent increase in the excise tax, he noted that most cities charge what are variously called impact fees, system development fees or tap charges on new development to help fund water, sewer or drainage improvements.

To justify the charges, cities develop long-term capital improvement plans that make a priority rankings of foreseen infrastructure improvements the growth-related fees would fund.

Should the DeSoto City Council consider expanding the scope of the excise tax or increasing tap fees, Brungardt suggested it first develop a comprehensive plan.

"Our plan is not that detailed," he said. "We don't have a five- or 10-year plan."

On the same night it approved the increase to the excise tax, the city council approved the city's updated fee structure for city services.

As that matter was being considered, Councilman Linda Zindler wondered how the city's fees for new water and sewer fees compared to other cities in Johnson County.

DeSoto's new connection charges for water are comparable with those in nearby cities, Brungardt said. Sewer fees, however, are much lower here, the city engineer said.

A survey of four neighboring Johnson County cities indicates Brungardt was right.

DeSoto charges new developers a flat rate of $500 per sewer hookup and adds another $100 for inspection. By contrast, Gardner charges $2,230 for a single-family or duplex sewer hookup and $1,485 for each multi-family unit connection. A developer will pay $1,040 for each new single-family sewer connection in Olathe and $693 for each mutli-family hookup.

Johnson County Wastewater, which provides service to Shawnee, Lenexa and other eastern Johnson County cities, charges $1,922 for a new residential connection if the land is within a sewer district.

The hookup charge raises to $2,723 if the land is not in a sewer district.

New commercial and industrial customers pay much more. For example, a new commercial customer requiring a two-inch meter would pay $6,965 in Gardner.

While the disparity of new water tap fees isn't as pronounced DeSoto is still a bargain compared to its neighbors. DeSoto charges $1,500 for a five-eighths-inch water meter and three-quarter-inch line that is standard for residential homes. The city adds another $30 connection fee.

For comparison, Gardner charges $300 for the standard residential water meter, but then adds an $1,800 system development fee for new single-family residential connections.

All jurisdictions increase their fees for larger meter sizes. DeSoto charges $2,000 for a three-quarter-inch meter and $2,500 for a 1.5-inch meter.

Even with the recent hike, DeSoto's excise tax is lower than most of its Johnson County neighbors. Excise taxes in the four neighboring Johnson County cities range from 13.6-cents-per-square-foot in Gardner to the 18 cents Lenexa will charge starting April 1.

When it passed the 1-cent increase earlier this month, the city council reserved the right to revisit the excise tax again in August.

While she didn't advocate any increases, Zindler said the city should take a closer look at its water and sewer tap fees. But she said the key to any changes to the excise tax or connection fees would be a comprehensive plan that would detail how the funds raised would be spent.

"We now have a very qualified, full-time city engineer who can get us more accurate and specific information we need for planning," she said. "I definitely think we need to take a good look at developing a comprehensive plan."

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