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houblu

Drainage tax

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Unless I have missed it, I haven't seen any discussion of our new drainage tax.

Should be controversial, since the initiative was pushed by a company that looks to profit from any "imporvements". Also it was sold as a $5 fee, now it's up to $8 and can only go higher. Sudden involvement of google maps also a surprise. And what will it really be used for? My guess is the Houston river walk along buff. bayou.

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My biggest complaint about it is how they calculate the fee for your property. I live in a townhouse that shares a wall with a neighbor. Their "impervious surface" sq footage for my lot was enormous... so I looked online to see that the parcel boundaries in their GIS tool plotted half of my neighbor's house and lot as part of mine. I protested online, sent them my building/property diagrams from my appraisal company when I bought the house, told them to just look at the map and they can see they lumped in my neighbors house with mine... but they DENIED my protest saying their initial charge is correct and will be unchanged. I'm now going to have to appeal, but when I tried to online the site kept giving me errors. I called them and told them when I'd like to appeal, and they told me someone should be contacting me to let me know if my proposed appeal time is accepted. They sure do make it hard to right an obvious wrong.

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There was a story I read last night that they are going to reduce the cost (as mentioned by houblu, it's roughly $8 now), by giving everyone a 1000sq foot 'amnesty' or something.

my biggest complaint is that my reading of it lumps decks and paver patios into 'impervious' which obviously isn't possible, since they are not impervious.

another concern is that this is not considered a tax, and as such (even though it is a small charge for me) is not deductible come tax season (question because I'm not sure)?

Edited by samagon

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I tried the link as well to file an appeal, it gave me errors as well.

It's never worked correctly for me either.

For those who think it's just a small charge, mull over the fact that it will never go up, and never be ended.

PS do we even know what it's really going to be spent on?

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It's never worked correctly for me either.

For those who think it's just a small charge, mull over the fact that it will never go up, and never be ended.

PS do we even know what it's really going to be spent on?

oops I meant never go down

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I wonder too about vacant lots around town that still have concrete slabs on them. If there is no water/sewage connection (which there should not be), how will those property owners be charged for this?

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I wonder too about vacant lots around town that still have concrete slabs on them. If there is no water/sewage connection (which there should not be), how will those property owners be charged for this?

They won't be.

Now, Parker is saying that the first 1,000 square feet of impervious area will be exempted from the fee. But all that that is doing is shifting the burden of the fee to those who own larger properties, and particularly commercial properties. Depending on the part of town, larger doesn't necessarily mean more valuable. As such, the burden is being inequitably distributed within all socioeconomic classes as well as between residents and businesses.

What's more, this fee is essentially punitive against those that built up our city's impervious surfaces decades ago. But the fee is also too small and paid out over too long a period of time to meaningfully influence development practices going forward.

I would suggest that since flood risk feeds back to property value by way of insurance costs, and since another part of this money is going to get spent on transportation, which also enhances property value and has absolutely nothing to do with impervious land area...we should just raise property taxes and call it a day. Maybe charge higher impact fees on new development that can be waived if the developer adheres to 'best practices'.

EDIT: Or...we could cut spending and be done with it.

Edited by TheNiche

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They won't be.

Now, Parker is saying that the first 1,000 square feet of impervious area will be exempted from the fee. But all that that is doing is shifting the burden of the fee to those who own larger properties, and particularly commercial properties. Depending on the part of town, larger doesn't necessarily mean more valuable. As such, the burden is being inequitably distributed within all socioeconomic classes as well as between residents and businesses.

What's more, this fee is essentially punitive against those that built up our city's impervious surfaces decades ago. But the fee is also too small and paid out over too long a period of time to meaningfully influence development practices going forward.

I would suggest that since flood risk feeds back to property value by way of insurance costs, and since another part of this money is going to get spent on transportation, which also enhances property value and has absolutely nothing to do with impervious land area...we should just raise property taxes and call it a day. Maybe charge higher impact fees on new development that can be waived if the developer adheres to 'best practices'.

EDIT: Or...we could cut spending and be done with it.

Agreed, I'm not fond with the way the Mayor has handled this, but I understand the fee is needed so the city's drainage system (and as a byproduct, the streets) gets to be updated.

One option I hoped she would have gotten is reduce the fee, make it fair for everyone, but increase the time by 5 or ten years. In those years, the population would increase along with the housing and construction.

One thing I'm wondering is if they would take permeable concrete into account, and would this influence home owners and businesses to start using it.

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They won't be.

Now, Parker is saying that the first 1,000 square feet of impervious area will be exempted from the fee. But all that that is doing is shifting the burden of the fee to those who own larger properties, and particularly commercial properties. Depending on the part of town, larger doesn't necessarily mean more valuable. As such, the burden is being inequitably distributed within all socioeconomic classes as well as between residents and businesses.

What's more, this fee is essentially punitive against those that built up our city's impervious surfaces decades ago. But the fee is also too small and paid out over too long a period of time to meaningfully influence development practices going forward.

I would suggest that since flood risk feeds back to property value by way of insurance costs, and since another part of this money is going to get spent on transportation, which also enhances property value and has absolutely nothing to do with impervious land area...we should just raise property taxes and call it a day. Maybe charge higher impact fees on new development that can be waived if the developer adheres to 'best practices'.

EDIT: Or...we could cut spending and be done with it.

The fees were always just a small part of the Rebuild Houston campaign. The bigger thing was that we would have a dedicated fund for road and drainage repairs. So they could have raised taxes to pay for it; or cut spending like you said.

Personally, I'd like to see them drop the fees down to the originally promised $5 average, and then close the gaps in two ways:

1: Get a cut of the fees for vehicles registered in the City of Houston. As I have said from the beginning, Rebuild Houston is not just about drainage. It's about roads, too. So why not get money from automobile registrations? The Green folks would love it, too - since they want people to have fewer cars.

2: Due to a fluke in State Law, private universities are required to be exempt from the fee. The City needs to take a lead from Boston MA, and aggressively seek voluntary payments from the Universities, to help cover what should be their share of the fees. (The "payments" could be that the Universities actually use their own money and contractors to repair public roads and drainage through and around campus).

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They won't be.

Now, Parker is saying that the first 1,000 square feet of impervious area will be exempted from the fee. But all that that is doing is shifting the burden of the fee to those who own larger properties, and particularly commercial properties. Depending on the part of town, larger doesn't necessarily mean more valuable. As such, the burden is being inequitably distributed within all socioeconomic classes as well as between residents and businesses.

In other words, the biggest contributors to water runoff are charged the most. Most of us call that "fair". It should also be pointed out that this "unfair" break given to smaller properties amounts to $3.20. Walmart will survive.

What's more, this fee is essentially punitive against those that built up our city's impervious surfaces decades ago. But the fee is also too small and paid out over too long a period of time to meaningfully influence development practices going forward.

If the fee is too small and paid over too long a time to be influence development, then it is also not particularly punitive.

I would suggest that since flood risk feeds back to property value by way of insurance costs, and since another part of this money is going to get spent on transportation, which also enhances property value and has absolutely nothing to do with impervious land area...we should just raise property taxes and call it a day. Maybe charge higher impact fees on new development that can be waived if the developer adheres to 'best practices'.

The purpose of the fee is to have dedicated funding to address an issue that has been underfunded historically in the City. If the voters did not like that approach, they could have voted it down, and the funds could have come from higher property taxes. We chose otherwise. City building codes already require "best practices" in new construction. There is no need to give a discount for it.

The fee is not particularly onerous, even at the previous level, for the average resident. It is not even particularly onerous for large users. I would suggest that a user who needs one acre of parking lot for his business can afford the $113 per month fee, given that the parking lot costs upwards of $200,000 to construct, and serves 200 or more customers at a time.

Edited by RedScare

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The fee is not particularly onerous, even at the previous level, for the average resident. It is not even particularly onerous for large users. I would suggest that a user who needs one acre of parking lot for his business can afford the $113 per month fee, given that the parking lot costs upwards of $200,000 to construct, and serves 200 or more customers at a time.

I'm not saying that it's onerous. I'm saying it's bull____.

And btw, Wal-Mart isn't the only business with a bunch of pavement. And in fact, Wal-Mart's ratio of parking lot to retail space tends to be at or slightly below the 5:1 average for retail. I'm actually most concerned over locally-owned industrial properties, where five to twenty acres of impervious cover can add up to a bill that is a huge deal.

Edited by TheNiche

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Though there are likely less than a handful of industrial users with 20 acres of impervious cover, I am still unimpressed. An industry with 20 acres of manufacturing or storage capacity is more than likely a multi-billion dollar company with payrolls in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. The $2,261 monthly drainage fee doesn't cover the salary of one of their employees. And that pales in comparison to the property tax hit that the company would take if the City raised property taxes to cover the fee, as you suggested.

Your concern is misplaced. A user with 20 acres of roof or concrete is a huge contributor to the flooding problem. However, if the fee is too onerous, I would not be opposed to a discount upon the company showing that they had sufficient mitigation in place to warrant a smaller fee.

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Though there are likely less than a handful of industrial users with 20 acres of impervious cover, I am still unimpressed. An industry with 20 acres of manufacturing or storage capacity is more than likely a multi-billion dollar company with payrolls in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. The $2,261 monthly drainage fee doesn't cover the salary of one of their employees. And that pales in comparison to the property tax hit that the company would take if the City raised property taxes to cover the fee, as you suggested.

Your concern is misplaced. A user with 20 acres of roof or concrete is a huge contributor to the flooding problem. However, if the fee is too onerous, I would not be opposed to a discount upon the company showing that they had sufficient mitigation in place to warrant a smaller fee.

I said five to twenty. There have got to be hundreds of such properties. Most of them are not refineries or owned by multinationals or REITs. Most of them aren't even intensively developed, and many have large paved areas left over from previous users, developed decades ago.

I'm not saying that such properties aren't contributors to the problem, but what I am saying is that by and large, they didn't install the impervious coverage. Whenever whomever did it did it, a policy such as this was not a concern. It was not a concern to the contemporary user. And now that the policy exists, it is punitive to random people and businesses that could not have anticipated the fee, and the fee is also insufficient to warrant private-sector mitigation. It is not successful in any sense.

Regardless of what direction you'd like to see policy go on the issue of flood control, I cannot imagine that you approve of this particular policy. It is indecisive.

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5 acre cover is only $500 a month, even less onerous. And, you haven't listed a single property where 1) the cover is 5 to 20 acres, 2) the cover was placed there dwcades ago, 3) by a previous user, and 4) the $500 to $2000 fee is crippling, or even onerous to the current user. You've simply imagined a scenario that may not even exist. However, flooding is not a figment of anyone's imagination. It is real, and they cost us billions, not $5, or $8, or $500, or $2000. As for policy, I much prefer a dedicated infrastructure fee that will not be diverted to keeping swimming pools open (though recreation facilities can keep juvenile crime in check). Show me a property or business unduly harmed by the fee. Then we can debate what should be done. You haven't even shown the problem exists.

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Of course, if the fee is too onerous, a business can construct a detention system, and get out of paying the fee altogether. That may be a good benefit of this, get businesses to construct detention facilities, rather than letting all the runoff flow at once.

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5 acre cover is only $500 a month, even less onerous. And, you haven't listed a single property where 1) the cover is 5 to 20 acres, 2) the cover was placed there dwcades ago, 3) by a previous user, and 4) the $500 to $2000 fee is crippling, or even onerous to the current user. You've simply imagined a scenario that may not even exist. However, flooding is not a figment of anyone's imagination. It is real, and they cost us billions, not $5, or $8, or $500, or $2000. As for policy, I much prefer a dedicated infrastructure fee that will not be diverted to keeping swimming pools open (though recreation facilities can keep juvenile crime in check). Show me a property or business unduly harmed by the fee. Then we can debate what should be done. You haven't even shown the problem exists.

REALLY!? I declare bull____ and victory.

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Of course, if the fee is too onerous, a business can construct a detention system, and get out of paying the fee altogether. That may be a good benefit of this, get businesses to construct detention facilities, rather than letting all the runoff flow at once.

Nope. The fee does not allow for this circumstance. I agree that it should; it does not.

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Nope. The fee does not allow for this circumstance. I agree that it should; it does not.

I thought I had read that properties with detention systems would be exempt. I would be upset if I spent a bunch of money building ponds on a new development, and still had to pay the fee.

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I thought I had read that properties with detention systems would be exempt. I would be upset if I spent a bunch of money building ponds on a new development, and still had to pay the fee.

Nope. And if your water detention system is lined with concrete, then you'll be charged a fee on that too.

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From CitizensNet:

City of Houston Announces Drainage Utility Charge Appeals Process

Challenging Your Drainage Charge

The City of Houston is offering residents the opportunity to challenge the drainage utility charge calculated for their property. The first step is to request verification and correction of the calculation. This may be done utilizing the form that accompanied the drainage charge notification letters previously sent to all residents, or online at www.rebuildhouston.org. Residents will be notified by mail as to the outcome of the verification process. Residents who are not satisfied with this outcome may file a formal appeal. Once the appeal is requested, the City will send confirmation of a hearing date, time and location.

Measuring Tool

The drainage charge is calculated based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. Impervious surface is the portion of a property that is covered by a house, garage, driveway, sidewalk, deck, swimming pool or other structures that will impact the City's drainage conveyance system. The City is offering a convenient on-line tool so that residents may easily measure their property's impervious surface. The online tool will also allow property owners to view how much their drainage charge will be. Instructional tutorials and other information are also available.

For more information about the verification and correction process, appeals, measuring impervious surface or other drainage related questions, please visit www.rebuildhouston.org or contact the Drainage Customer Service line at 713.371.1111.

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How on earth did they come up with what's impervious? How is a gravel drivenot or pier & beam home NOT?

Ummm..they decide whatever they want to and then do it, and tell us the decision was inevitable, necesary, out of theuir hands, or that we just don't get it since we're just average people.

And...I think it's very unlikely that the money collected will actually go into flood control.

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How on earth did they come up with what's impervious? How is a gravel drivenot or pier & beam home NOT?

It's totally possible that your pier and beam house is impervious. What matters (in principle) is where the rain goes, not whether there's a slab. If you have gutters, and they put water somewhere that drains into the sewer (down a driveway for instance), that would count. Of course they didn't actually go case by case to say one way or the other for every property, they want us to do that ourselves.

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It's totally possible that your pier and beam house is impervious. What matters (in principle) is where the rain goes, not whether there's a slab. If you have gutters, and they put water somewhere that drains into the sewer (down a driveway for instance), that would count. Of course they didn't actually go case by case to say one way or the other for every property, they want us to do that ourselves.

Or more accurately, they don't have the manpower to inspect every household, and it is up to the owners of the property to enlighten the ones that calculate the fees.

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Sales Tax Revenues are up by 13% compared to last year. How much revenue will the Providence bring in once it's built?? Someone shout out the number please.

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i would think that that with the city of houston being built where it is, it seems like flood control should just come with the territory by living in this city, rather than burdening tax payers.

Also, the impervious land thing is bull. I'm not a homeowner, but they count the roof as part of the impervious land area. For anyone that doesn't know- impervious= land around property that can't be absorbed by water. So if rain water falls on to the roof of your house and falls in to your lawn, how is that impervious? The water would go back in to your lawn and you're still being charged for it.

The way the Mayor handled this one in the vote was very underhanded and wrong. Voters were duped in to thinking that they were only going to pay $5 extra each month. I believe some significant people were paid off make this thing fly. Then she tried to correct it by sending out that b/s article talking about "We erred on the $5.00 estimate." The article went to say that the $5 estimate was based off the average square footage of the average house in Houston. People from the water department are telling us that the $5 was just an estimate. Well that's not what we were led to believe. Rather than doing that recalculation forgiving the first 1000 sq ft bullcrap, why not put it to a revote and explain that the fee could range from $5 to as high as $300/month (for some businesses) and depending updon the square footage of impervious land area.

I'm getting quite nervous seeing over and over how corrupt this city is and wonder if i ever want to become a homeowner in this city.

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A great deal of rain runs off the roof and onto impervious areas like the driveway and various walkways that route the flow directly into the street. Two thirds of the water that comes off our roof does that. We catch some in a rain barrel, but we don't have a way to get the rest of the water onto the yard.

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I'm getting quite nervous seeing over and over how corrupt this city is and wonder if i ever want to become a homeowner in this city.

+1

after the corruption of the process to annex kingwood and watching my property taxes double every 3-4 years and this on top of it I am moving to a different part of town that is not CoH this summer. hopefully

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The way the Mayor handled this one in the vote was very underhanded and wrong.

Ch2 news had a great editorial today regarding the Mayor's supposedly dedicated fund. Turns out in this yrs budget 50 million of this money is being used to pay salaries and benefits of nearly 500 public works employees which is what she said WOULD NOT HAPPEN when asked prior to the vote.. The Mayor's repeated statements about the dedicated fund will definitely come back to haunt her. Hopefully Ch2 will continue to push the issue.

Edited by musicman

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Ch2 news had a great editorial today regarding the Mayor's supposedly dedicated fund. Turns out in this yrs budget 50 million of this money is being used to pay salaries and benefits of nearly 500 public works employees which is what she said WOULD NOT HAPPEN when asked prior to the vote.. The Mayor's repeated statements about the dedicated fund will definitely come back to haunt her. Hopefully Ch2 will continue to push the issue.

Shocking - a Democrat saying one thing and doing another...Truly shocking. (Democrat could be replaced with "politician" but its not as entertaining)

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Ch2 news had a great editorial today regarding the Mayor's supposedly dedicated fund. Turns out in this yrs budget 50 million of this money is being used to pay salaries and benefits of nearly 500 public works employees which is what she said WOULD NOT HAPPEN when asked prior to the vote.. The Mayor's repeated statements about the dedicated fund will definitely come back to haunt her. Hopefully Ch2 will continue to push the issue.

I saw that yesterday. These funds were to be dedicated to drainage projects, or at least that's what I thought I was voting for. Um, now that I think about it, I got flyers in the mail that very directly stated that these funds could not be diverted. This really pisses me off, if true.

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I saw that yesterday. These funds were to be dedicated to drainage projects, or at least that's what I thought I was voting for. Um, now that I think about it, I got flyers in the mail that very directly stated that these funds could not be diverted. This really pisses me off, if true.

Please see my original post.

I think it was naive to believe that the new tax would be used for the promised purpose.

However you can be damn sure that the engineering company that was the front to push this, will get their money. Or the owner(s) will get his/her/their money out of it.

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As I watched the water rise last Saturday, on my street and on the teevee,I was glad to see the improved drainage measures (paid for by the drainage tax, now in effect around 2 years IIRC) kicking in to improve our drainage!

 

Maybe I just didn't notice, but has there been even a single PR event about some high-viz drainage improvement construction, orchestrated by mayor or council? Are we supposed to be aware of wide-ranging improvemnts paid for by  that drainage tax?

 

Where's the cash really going?

 

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from Councilman Costello enewsletter

 

 

 

Controller and Finance Director announce additional revenue at yesterday's Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee

 

Houston is experiencing good times.  As a result of a booming economy, the city's property values have increased 9% over last year.  Thanks to the charter amendment establishing the ReBuild Houston Program, this means more money, $11.1 million more, for street and drainage infrastructure projects.  This is in addition to the $11 million already budgeted for projects in Fiscal Year 2014.  So, revenues from just this one source of ReBuild Houston funding have essentially doubled.

 

The ReBuild Houston program is made up of four funding sources:  monthly drainage utility fees; developer impact fees; third-party funds (Metro, TxDOT, grants, etc...); and a portion of your property taxes.  For each $100 valuation of your property, 11.8 cents is transferred to the ReBuild Houston Program.  This money is used first to pay down the city's $1.7 billion of street and drainage debt.  After the debt payment is made, excess ad valorem revenue goes directly to street and drainage projects.  The city is no longer borrowing to pay for these projects. We've cut up the credit card!

 

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from today's Swamplot:

 

http://swamplot.com/city-council-votes-to-drain-houstons-drainage-fund/2014-07-10/

 

I have fond memories of how it all started, with employees of an "engineering" company handing out leaflets to drum up support for this in Montrose. Then the clunky website, which did not work, but which was supposed to explain it all to you. And the mumbo jumbo about impervious surfaces blah blah.

Raise  your hand if you were naive enough to have ever believed that this tax money would not be diverted to whatever the city felt like spending it on.

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Interesting that you would link to that particular site.  Mr. Kuffner poses some great questions to opponents of the drainage tax (such as houblu):

 

If it goes down, then what if anything replaces it? I feel like I spent a lot of time back in 2010 asking Renew Houston opponents what they would do to provide more funds for flooding and drainage improvements, and I never got anything resembling a coherent answer. So I’ll ask again, with an eye especially at the Mayoral candidates. If not ReBuild Houston, then what? How do you provide more funds to do more street repairs and flood abatement? Remember, we live in a revenue cap world, so simply proposing a property tax increase (not that anyone would, I suppose) is insufficient. If you don’t propose some kind of supplemental revenue stream, then as far as I’m concerned you’re not serious about wanting to do street improvements and flood mitigation.

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What a shame. A booming city that needs funds for infrastructure with a looming pension crisis. I suppose conservatives can claim this a victory,I claim it as a defeat unless conservatives can put some sanity into the unavoidable pension issue.

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