Five years ago Princeton experienced what many referred to as a hundred-year rain. A couple of weeks ago, another hundred-year rain occurred. I recall storms while growing up referred to as hundred-year rains. It’s inevitable that hundred-year rains are in our future, and so are flooding and sanitary back up issues.
The city has $40 million in unprecedented debt. Paying on this debt is burdensome. Whether we address the north end flooding and sewer issues or the city’s overall sewer problems, the added costs will be great.
To replace or patch repair our extensive sewer problems will necessitate revenue from sources already tapped; utility rates/fees, property and sales tax dollars. I mention property and sales taxes because storm sewers, unlike sanitary sewers, are not a utility. Revenue sources for storm sewers include property and sales tax dollars. Currently revenue from both is pretty much spoken for on a year to year basis. Another option for storm sewers is establishing a new utility. Doing this would add another line item to our utility bills. Flooding that occurs on the northeast end of town is primarily caused by runoff from nearby fields. Depending on how the issue is best solved will determine how the problem is paid for; utility rates/fees, property taxes and/or sales tax dollars. There may also be possible government funds/grants available. Regardless, addressing any of these issues thoroughly will prove costly.
There is another option, but history questions its viability. I’ll raise it anyway because, financially, I believe it’s the best option. During last year’s home rule meetings, there was much discussion about our sewers and their future. Sewers were the driving force of why home rule was being discussed. Consider that if home rule had passed and we had initiated an immediate $.03 tax on a gallon of gas, we could, today, arguably have upwards of $1 million, maybe more, already in a sewer fund. Of this amount upwards of $700,000, maybe more, would have been collected from non-residents … motorists and truckers just passing through town; year after year after year. The money in this fund would have enabled us to service any debt needed to address our run-off flooding and sewer problems at minimal costs to residents; no cost if you choose to buy your gas elsewhere.
As homes and basements dry out and time passes with no major rainfall, residents may tend to forget today’s troubles. But then another hundred-year rain will hit, and our problems of today will reappear and residents, including me, will voice frustration and anger, fed up with a continuing unresolved and detrimental issue.
Revenue sources involving utilities, property and sales taxes are available today. Home rule consideration is available in three years time. It’s time we discuss and debate solutions. We know the issues. We’re working on solutions, and it won’t be long and we’ll have an idea on costs. The question we all need to answer and agree on is how will we pay for it all?