Stormwater tax proposal to be discussed during next Hannibal City Council meeting

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Darrin Gordon, general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works, holds a picture of failing stormwater system underneath the Hannibal Police Department during Tuesday's Hannibal City Council meeting. | Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Hannibal voters could see a stormwater tax proposal on the April ballot.

Darrin Gordon, general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works, introduced the proposed tax during the Hannibal City Council meeting on Tuesday. Gordon, who had laryngitis, brought Matthew Munzlinger, director of operations at HBPW, to read his notes to the council.

Hannibal Mayor Barry Louderman asked the proposal be tabled until the Dec. 5 council meeting to give him time to look into it. Louderman said he is familiar with Hannibal’s stormwater situation but wanted more time to study the proposal.

The tax would be a flat fee per parcel of land, with the amount of the fee based on the electric meter size and usage for commercial, residential and industrial properties.

The proposed flat fee for residential electric meters would be:

  • $12 to $20 per month for properties with residential electric meters. 
  • $110 to $230 per month for properties with commercial electric meters.
  • $420 to $570 per month for properties with industrial electric meters.
  • $8 per month for non-metered properties.

Nonprofits would not be taxed, eliminating charges to entities such as schools and churches.

The amount due would be determined by average annual monthly kilowatt hour usage.

If passed, electric usage would not be recorded until after July 2024, and taxes wouldn’t begin until 2025. The first payment would be due in January 2026.

Hannibal City Attorney James Lemon expressed concern that categorizing types of taxpayers might be subject to a challenge under the due process clause.

“There needs to be some specific reasonableness, and there needs to be a reason why different types of taxpayers are treated differently,” he said. “However, I’m not saying it’s invalid. What I’m saying is it’s subject to challenge.”

Lemon also said he does not have a better solution and complimented the members of SWAC. “They came up with this and that’s a good step in the right direction,” he said.

Munzlinger said the team seriously considered taxing through impervious surface areas, which refers to areas with water runoff such as building rooftops, parking and sidewalk areas. However, it was not chosen at the end. 

“The impervious area would be the most complex and hardest to track,” he said. “A flat fee based on the electric meter would be one of the least complicated.”

The tax proposal was put together by the Stormwater Action Committee, a group of 15 members who represent different perspectives such as commercial, agricultural and residential. 

The group started discussing in February a fair tax proposal to fund a new stormwater system for Hannibal after the HBPW proposed a stormwater tax in January to add to the April ballot.

The proposal, called Proposition S, was killed by the HBPW after discovering issues that would cause certain landowners to pay exorbitant amounts based on their acreage.

If approved, this won’t be the first time a stormwater tax proposal has been on the ballot for Hannibal voters. Another version of Proposition S failed by 12 votes in 2019.

Larry Craig, a member of the Stormwater Action Committee and a former member of Hannibal City Council, reminded council members on Tuesday that Hannibal has no current source of funding for stormwater.

The current system is a more than 120-year-old patchwork of underground tunnels. Learn more about the history of Hannibal’s stormwater system on the HBPW website.

Craig said state legislation passed within the last 20 years restricting HBPW from using electric or sewer funds on stormwater repair or maintenance. 

Members of SWAC also are responsible for educating the community on the need for funding stormwater.   

Munzlinger said HBPW is responsible for all underground maintenance and repair while the City of Hannibal is responsible for above-ground work.

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