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Appeals Court Backs Miami-Dade School Board On Stormwater Fees

Miami Herald

An appeals court Wednesday sided with the Miami-Dade County School Board in a dispute about whether it is required to pay stormwater utility fees to the city of Miami Beach.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that a circuit judge should have dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city seeking to require the school board to pay the fees, similar to other property owners.

The ruling said the school board is protected by sovereign immunity.

“Although a stormwater utility fee is not a tax, but is instead a user fee that a party can avoid by declining to use the service that the fee funds, the district courts have uniformly held that state entities that use a municipal stormwater utility infrastructure to manage their stormwater runoff have sovereign immunity from being charged stormwater utility fees and such immunity has not been waived by … the current legislative expressions of the municipal authority to charge stormwater utility fees,” said the eight-page ruling, written by Judge Thomas Logue and joined by Judges Fleur Lobree and Alexander Bokor.

The school board owns 10 developed properties in the city that use Miami Beach’s stormwater-management system to drain runoff, according to the ruling.