Will Concerns Surface After School District Goes To Court to Avoid Paying Storm Water Bills?
June 17, 2013
(West Palm Beach, FL) – The School District of Palm Beach County is looking to the courts to avoid paying the City of West Palm Beach for storm water service. Could the district’s decision lead to a situation that impacts both school buildings and the children who use them?
Last week, the district filed paperwork in court claiming it should not have to pay for the storm water services it receives. Storm water service is what protects homes and neighborhoods during heavy rains, and helps to drain away flood waters. Storm water service is paid for by just about every homeowner and business, religious institutions, non-profit agencies, the county, state and federal governments and practically everyone else in the city.
The School District says recent court decisions have created a loophole that allows it to ignore any obligation to pay cities for the service.
However. the district’s attempted use of this loophole could have some concerned for the kids who attend their schools.
“The school kids are now the ones who are caught in the middle because the district is pursuing this in court. It’s the kids’ classrooms that could be damaged by floods, mold, or who knows what else if the buildings flood,” said City of West Palm Beach Communications Director Elliot Cohen. “I hope the District has another flood plan ready to go. I would hate to see any permanent damage done to the kids’ classrooms simply because the district decided to take a billing dispute to court.”
“The School District certainly can try to claim they don’t have to pay for service, but any city in the County that they are refusing to pay has the right to simply not provide service if any customer refuses to pay,” said Cohen.
According to a Palm Beach Post report, the District “stopped paying its fees in April 2012, and School District General Counsel Sheryl Wood has asserted that a state appeals court ruling last year in Key West gives school district’s “sovereign immunity” so they don’t have to pay stormwater fees to cities.”
The City of West Palm Beach had previously extended a deadline to pay for the services until July. City officials say the July deadline is less important than making sure the latest lawsuit doesn’t lead to a situation that could potentially damage classrooms and create dangerous conditions.