Judge Rules School Board of Palm Beach County has Sovereign Immunity from Being Sued Over City Stormwater Utility Fees
Palm Beach Circuit Judge Lisa S. Small ruled on Friday, Dec. 22 that the School Board of Palm Beach County has sovereign immunity from being sued over the non-payment of city stormwater utility fees. The ruling saves the School Board over $4 million.
In 2013, the School Board of Palm Beach County filed an action in circuit court seeking an injunction from the City of West Palm Beach’s threats to remove the School Board’s properties and schools from West Palm Beach’s stormwater facilities. School later amended its complaint to seek affirmation from the circuit court that it has sovereign immunity from West Palm Beach’s suit for the non-payment of stormwater fees.
Stormwater utility fees are assigned by a municipality to a developed residential and non-residential property to help fund planning, construction, operation and maintenance of stormwater management systems. Individual fees are determined by a formula based on the size of the property and statistical analysis.
On Friday, after a hearing the circuit court granted the School Board’s Motion For Summary Judgment and denied West Palm Beach’s competing Motion For Summary Judgment, which would have required the School Board to pay millions of dollars in municipal stormwater fees to West Palm Beach. The decision in favor of the School Board follows a line of cases in other Florida courts that recognized the immunity of school boards and other state agencies from suits to collect municipal stormwater utility fees in the absence of a written contract.
“This is a big victory for the Palm Beach County School Board and certain governmental entities throughout Florida,” said Nason Yeager Shareholder John Fumero, who represented the School Board. “This case has statewide ramifications for other school boards and state agencies who have been required to pay such fees to municipalities.”
Formerly General Counsel of the South Florida Water Management District, Fumero has more than 25 years of experience practicing exclusively in the areas of environmental, land use, governmental and administrative, law. He worked with fellow Nason Yeager attorney John K. “Jack” Rice to successfully represent the School Board. For more information on the ruling, or other matters, please Contact John Fumero or John K. “Jack” Rice at 561-982-7114, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.