When Tropical Storm Hermine pummeled Cedar Park with 12 hours of nonstop rain in 2010, Susan Light and Roger Young found their home trapped in a funnel collecting stormwater runoff from three different directions.
The rising water from Cluck Creek flooded Light’s car and quickly overtook the single sump pump running inside the house. The rainfall created a lake in their front yard.
“We were out on the street waving at cars to slow down because they were creating waves that washed into our house,” Light said.
In October, the couple attended one of four community meetings hosted by the city to explain a new proposal to pay for drainage improvements. A previous plan by the council to pay for the work with new fees was not pursued. But this time Light and Young are hopeful for a flooding solution.
Staff presented a plan for the city to pay for stormwater drainage improvements with a portion of a sales tax currently earmarked for economic development. Doing so would provide an estimated $1.65 million in sales tax collections to drainage solutions — about how much one quarter of the one-half cent economic development sales tax could generate.
An online city survey in December found most of the 450 residents who completed it in favor of the idea.
Staff said 81 percent of respondents want the new use for the sales tax. The city council is expected to hold public hearings on the proposal this month which could lead to a vote on May 5.
Fran Erwin, community affairs director for the city, presented the results of the stormwater survey to the council on Dec. 19. Erwin said 93 percent of respondents were in favor of a stormwater management program that does not require a tax increase. Seventy-three percent of the survey respondents said they rarely or never had experienced flooding.
“It has a lot to do with property values,” Erwin said. “Many of those who responded know residents whose homes have been impacted by flooding.
“Some residents felt strongly about the problem and submitted photos of flooding along with their surveys,” she said. “They asked why the city had not already assessed developers to fix the problem.”
Light and Young said they would gladly vote in favor of shifting a portion of the city sales tax revenue toward drainage solutions.
Currently, the city’s general fund pays for basic maintenance, such as debris removal, sweeping and cleaning streets in flood events and regulation compliance, such as clean water maintenance.
“The money we have for maintenance doesn’t pay for small and large scale infrastructure projects which are needed to prevent major flooding events without impacting the sales tax rate,” said Assistant City Manager Sam Roberts.
The city would like to use about $225,000 of the $1.65 million in estimated new sales tax income to manage the stormwater program for the city. That cost cannot be paid from the city general fund now. About $38 million worth of work has been identified for needed improvements overall including:
About $550,000 is earmarked in the city budget annually for increased drainage system maintenance costs and the city also spends an estimated $125,000 a year to comply with state and federal environmental requirements.
“If the council approves it, it will be a citywide vote,” Irwin said. “It will really be up to the voters to decide if this is a good use of the economic development sales tax.”
In addition to the community meetings, city staff presented the drainage plans at a gathering of homeowner associations. A city website at www.cedarparkdrainage.com also provided information to the public.