Council members say they simply want to set up a means to collect the storm water assessment that was passed last year, but some residents say they think the system is really an ad valorem tax, which is a tax based on the value of real estate or personal property, something the city charter does not allow in Panama City Beach.
Jim Smith, a Panama City Beach resident, said, "We think it is a tax, call it what you want to. It's a tax levy against us."
But Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst says this is not assessing or taxing anything.
Gayle Oberst said, "This is the third year that we've passed this resolution that sets up a vehicle so if the tax collector should be used to collect that assessment, it can be put on their property tax bill."
Douglas Sale, city attorney, said, "This is not an ad valorem tax. This is not even an assessment. This is a methodology to collect an assessment if there ever is one."
City manager Richard Jackson says future assessment fees could range from transportation improvement projects to installing sidewalks, or any other assessments that citizens may want to improve in the neighborhood.
The city's recently enacted storm water fee has already been implemented and collected.
Richard Jackson said, "This fee will actually have nothing to do with your property value. The fee is set up under the guidelines of the storm water ordinance, which is added to your property tax bill."
And if there should be a future assessment?
"We will have public hearings, we will notify all of you. We will talk about that before they are levied."
Tonight the council also welcomed its newest member when Rick Russell was sworn in. Councilman Jeff Ferguson was appointed vice mayor. Tonight was the council's last meeting of the year.