Jackson Facing Class Action Lawsuit for Stormwater Fee Refunds

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

Step one was getting the courts to rule Jackson's stormwater fees illegal.

Now property owners are trying to get back at least some of the millions of dollars they paid before that ruling came down.

The City of Jackson collected about $3 million in stormwater fees from home and business owners during the roughly two and a half years the fee was in place.

Brian Surgener, the attorney representing the lead plaintiff in the suit, said it's time for the city to pay up.

"The residents in good conscious paid a fee they thought was legitimate," Surgener said. "The court has since said that's an unconstitutional collection of a fee and you've got to return that and that's the right thing to do."

Surgener said he thinks the city should voluntarily refund the fees. They're only seeking to get a partial refund because there is a one year statute of limitations for class action suits.

The suit will seek a refund of fees for the entire year prior to the filing date of Aug. 15.

But Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin said the lawsuit will only end up costing taxpayers more money than they'll be able to get back in the end.

"It's the worst possible remedy for our residents," Griffin said. "The worst part about this is that once a judgement comes down it goes right on the tax roles so that the people are going to be billed to pay themselves back."

Mayor Griffin contends Surgener jumped the gun in filing the suit.

"We were working on some sort of settlement but it was something that was going to take time," he said. "We don't have an extra million sitting in our general fund, it just doesn't work that way."

Griffin said it wouldn't be viable to use money from the city's general fund to pay for the refunds.

Instead, to come up with the money Griffin said the city might have to lay off more employees or cut more services to cover the now gaping $1 million dollar hole left in the budget.

Surgener meanwhile said the city should've never used the money to pay basic expenses like salaries and services when it knew the legality of the fee would be challenged.

"I don't know how refunding the property owners back the money they've already paid hurts the property owner," Surgener said. "If the service is not going to be provided here after for picking up leaves or cleaning the streets, that might hurt property owners but that's up to the city of Jackson to make those decisions."


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