Texas Water Code - WATER § 49.231. Standby Fees
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(a) In this section:
(1) “Standby fee” means a charge, other than a tax, imposed on undeveloped property for the availability of potable water, sanitary sewer, or drainage facilities and services.
(2) “Undeveloped property” means a tract, lot, or reserve in the district to which no potable water, sanitary sewer, or drainage connections have been made for which:
(A) water, sanitary sewer, or drainage facilities and services are available;
(B) water supply, wastewater treatment plant capacity, or drainage capacity sufficient to serve the property is available; or
(C) major water supply lines, wastewater collection lines, or drainage facilities with capacity sufficient to serve the property are available.
(b) A district that proposes to provide or actually provides retail potable water or sewer utility services, or drainage services as the principal function of the district, may, with the approval of the commission, adopt and impose on the owners of undeveloped property in the district a standby fee in addition to taxes levied by the district. A district may not impose a standby fee for debt service purposes on undeveloped property unless the facilities and services available to the property have been financed by the district; however, a district may impose a standby fee for operating and maintaining facilities that it has not financed. The district may impose standby fees in different amounts to fairly reflect the level and type of services and facilities available to serve different property. The intent of the standby fee is to distribute a fair portion of the cost burden for operating and maintaining the facilities and for financing capital costs of the facilities to owners of property who have not constructed improvements but have potable water, sewer, or drainage capacity available. Any revenues collected from the standby fees shall be used to pay operation and maintenance expenses, to pay debt service on the bonds, or both.
(c) If a district described in Subsection (b) desires to adopt and impose a standby fee, the district shall submit to the commission an application for authority to adopt and impose the standby fee. The application must describe the tracts of undeveloped property in the district and state the amount of the proposed fee.
(d) The executive director shall examine an application submitted under Subsection (c) and shall investigate the financial condition of the district, including the district's assets, liabilities, sources of revenue, level of utility service rates, and level of debt service and maintenance tax rates. On the request of the executive director, the district shall submit any information the executive director considers relevant to the examination and investigation. The executive director shall prepare a written report on the application and the district's financial condition, retain a copy of the report, and send a copy of the report to the commission and the district.
(e) Notice of an application submitted under Subsection (c) shall be published by the district in a form provided by the commission. The district shall publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties in which the district is located once a week for two consecutive weeks. The district shall also send notice of the application by certified mail, return receipt requested, to each owner of undeveloped property in the district. On the date the application is filed, the district's tax assessor and collector shall certify to the district the names of the persons owning undeveloped land in the district as reflected by the most recent certified tax roll of the district. Notice of the application must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to each mortgagee of record that has submitted a written request to be informed of any application for standby fees. The written request for notice must include the name and address of the mortgagee, the name of the property owner in the district, and a brief property description. The commission may act on an application without conducting a hearing if a public hearing is not requested by the commission, the executive director, or an affected person in the manner prescribed by commission rule during the 30 days following publication of the notice or receipt of mail containing the notice under this subsection.
(f) The commission shall consider the application, the report of the executive director, and any other evidence allowed by commission rule. The commission may approve the application only if the commission finds that the fee is necessary to maintain the financial integrity and stability of the district and fairly allocates the costs of district facilities and services among property owners of the district.
(g) The commission shall issue an order approving or disapproving the application. The commission shall retain a copy of the order and send a copy of the order to the district.
(h) The commission may approve the adoption and imposition of the standby fee for a period of not more than three years. The imposition of a standby fee may be renewed for additional periods of not more than three years each in the same manner provided in this section for initial approval of the standby fee.
(i) If approved by the commission, the board by resolution or order may impose an annual standby fee on undeveloped land in the district.
(j) The board may:
(1) charge interest, at the rate of one percent a month, on a standby fee not paid in a timely manner in accordance with the resolution or order imposing the standby fee;
(2) impose a penalty in connection with a standby fee that is not paid in a timely manner in accordance with the resolution or order imposing the standby fee; and
(3) refuse to provide potable water, sanitary sewer, or drainage service to the property for which the fee was assessed until all delinquent standby fees on the property, interest on those fees, and all penalties imposed in connection with the delinquent standby fees are fully paid.
(k) A standby fee imposed under this section is a personal obligation of the person owning the undeveloped property on January 1 of the year for which the fee is assessed. A person is not relieved of the obligation on transfer of title to the property. On January 1 of each year, a lien attaches to undeveloped property to secure payment of any standby fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed under this section. The lien has the same priority as a lien for taxes of the district.
(l) If a standby fee imposed under this section is not paid in a timely manner, a district may file suit to foreclose the lien securing payment of the fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed in connection with the fee or to enforce the personal obligation for the fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed in connection with the fee. In addition to the fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed, the district may recover reasonable costs, including attorney's fees, incurred by the district in enforcing the lien or obligation not to exceed 20 percent of the delinquent fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty. A suit authorized by this subsection must be filed not later than the fourth anniversary of the date the fee became due. A fee delinquent for more than four years, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed are considered paid unless a suit is filed before the expiration of the four-year period.
(m) Chapter 395, Local Government Code, does not apply to a standby fee imposed under this section.
(n) For purposes of title insurance policies issued under the authority of Title 11, Insurance Code 1, standby fees are considered taxes.
(o) The amount of the penalty authorized by Subsection (j) is six percent of the amount of the standby fee for the first calendar month the standby fee is delinquent, plus an additional one percent of the amount of the fee for each of the subsequent four months, or portion of each of those months, the fee is unpaid, except that if the fee remains unpaid on the first day of the sixth month after the month in which the fee became due, the amount of the penalty is 12 percent of the amount of the standby fee.
(p) This subsection applies only to the board of a district that has entered into a contract with an attorney for the collection of unpaid standby fees. In addition to the penalty authorized by Subsection (j) and in accordance with the resolution or order imposing a standby fee, the board may provide that a standby fee that is not paid in a timely manner is subject to a penalty to defray costs of collection of the unpaid standby fee. The amount of the additional penalty under this subsection may not exceed 15 percent of the amount of the standby fee, interest on the fee, and any penalty imposed in connection with the fee. A penalty under this subsection is incurred on the date set by the board. The penalty may be imposed only if the district or the attorney with whom the district has contracted notifies the property owner of the penalty and the amount of the penalty at least 30 but not more than 60 days before the date the penalty is incurred. A district that imposes the additional penalty under this subsection may not collect both the additional penalty and the attorney's fees provided by Subsection (l).
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