Illegal Stormwater Fee Finally Settled
In 2011, the city of Jackson, Michigan, levied a stormwater utility fee that garnered more than three million dollars from property owners. The city used the funds to pay for street sweeping, leaf pickup, catch-basin cleaning, and other services typically covered as street fund expenses. The Michigan Court of Appeals then ruled that this fee was an unlawful tax, causing city officials to suspend these services and cut fifteen related jobs, keeping the remaining money. Two years later, a property owner filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, demanding a refund.
Recently, the city finally paid what it owed. Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John McBain had no patience for the city’s request to wait until fall of 2018 to repay the money. “(The city) has the gall to suggest that poor citizens and poor non-profits should have to sit back until 2018 and wait for the city to get around to repaying them on a non-interest basis,” McBain said.
“Well, that’s not the way it’s going to happen.” A day before the court-ordered deadline, the city cut checks totaling around $470,000 to businesses and non-profits who had paid the fee.
This was the last of four court cases about this issue, following a $360,000 payment to homeowners last year. The city paid more than $539,000 in legal costs battling the cases, more than the amount of either payout.