Stormwater Utility

View Stormwater Utility Ordinance 2011-05 (PDF)

What is a stormwater utility?

A SWU is an organizational and financial entity whose purpose is to manage and fund a local government SWMP and to provide stormwater management services to customers. The utility was created after a citizen advisory committee, city staff and City Council spent several months evaluating ways to fund stormwater services. Each customer of the system is charged a service fee, and the funds are used exclusively for stormwater management.
Cement storm drain on Ship Road
What is a stormwater service fee?
A stormwater service fee is a charge for stormwater management services provided by the city to all developed residential and non­residential properties in the city. The service fee revenue collected can only be used for the provision of stormwater management services to customers within the city in accordance with the city ordinances.

Who is required to pay a stormwater service fee?
All developed properties within the city are charged a SWU service fee.

How is a stormwater service fee set?
The service fee is based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a developed parcel. Impervious surface means those areas which prevent or impede the natural infiltration of rainfall and stormwater runoff. Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, rooftops, buildings or structures, driveways, and parking lots. The square footage of impervious surface on a property has a direct correlation to the stormwater runoff discharged from that property. Larger parcels with greater amounts of impervious area will be charged a higher user fee based on the increased runoff amount and the increased demand placed on the city's drainage system.

Isn't this just another tax?
A stormwater service fee is not a tax. Although the fee is an additional cost to customers, it is not a tax because it bears no relation to the taxable value of a property. Customers will be charged a service fee if the property is developed, including "tax exempt" properties (i.e. churches, schools, local government facilities, etc.) all of which generate stormwater runoff from their impervious surfaces.

How are the stormwater utility service fees used by the city?
Service fees will provide additional resources to address drainage system maintenance in a more proactive manner; achieve compliance with federal, state and regional stormwater regulations; maintain water quality standards in local waterways; and fund drainage related construction projects.

In the past, how were stormwater-related activities funded?
Stormwater related activities have been funded by the city's general fund, which consists primarily of taxes. This process is unreliable and unstable due to the nature of competing priorities within the city's annual budgeting process for lower tax revenues. The SWU has been established to fund a more comprehensive SWMP without drawing funding away from other city priorities such as public safety. Funds collected by the SWU can only be spent on stormwater management program services in accordance with applicable city ordinances.

How is the amount of impervious area calculated on properties within the city?
The impervious area of nonresidential parcels is calculated using aerial photography and field verification methods. Aerial photography was also used to establish the average amount of impervious area of residential parcels in the city. The average amount of impervious area, or equivalent residential unit (ERU), for a residential property is 2,840 square feet.

What is an equivalent residential unit (ERU)?
An ERU is equal to the approximate average amount of impervious area associated with the impervious area footprint of a typical residential property within the city.

What is the city's billing rate?
The rate for 1 ERU is yet to be established. The average rate for metro area municipalities is $3.79/ERU.

How is the stormwater service fee charge calculated?
All residential properties will be charged 1 ERU per month and billed annually. All nonresidential properties will be charged an amount based on the total impervious area on the property. For example, if a nonresidential site has 20,000 square feet of impervious surface, that property owner would be charged 7 ERUs per month and billed annually (20,000 square feet / 2,840 square feet).

Why are churches and other tax-exempt properties required to pay?
All properties within the city that have impervious areas in excess of 500 square feet will be charged a stormwater service fee regardless of ownership or property tax status. All impervious surfaces (e.g. parking lots and rooftops) contribute stormwater runoff, and therefore, all customers share the cost of the city's SWMP.

Why did the city decide to implement a stormwater service fee charge?
In order to address the SWMP needs of the city, the city determined that additional resources were needed in the program. The City Council considered the stormwater service fee as opposed to levying a property tax because the city believes that the service fee approach is a more fair and equitable approach than taxation for SWMP services. The fee is not based on the assessed "value" of a property, like a tax, rather it is based on each customer's demand on the system and the services provided - similar to water, sewer, and sanitation.

The fee thus provides a fair, equitable, and stable source of funding for the city to utilize in addressing the numerous stormwater management issues. An additional benefit of a SWU is that all stormwater service fee revenues must be spent on stormwater management and drainage related issues whereas tax revenues are not subject to such restrictions. Although the fee is a new charge to residents and businesses for stormwater services, SWMP costs have always existed and were historically absorbed within the city general fund budget. With increasing regulatory requirements come increasing financial costs that cannot be absorbed by the general fund budget.

Is there any way to reduce the stormwater service fee amount?
Both residential and non-residential customers may be able to apply for credits to reduce their stormwater user fee by following the procedures outlined in the city's SWU credit manual. The credits are based on specific structural and non-structural stormwater controls (or best management practices) that reduce the impact of a customer's stormwater runoff on the city's drainage system and/or assist the city in meeting its regulatory requirements.

How will the city bill me for SWMP services?
The stormwater service fee will be billed annually as a separate utility line item on your property tax bill or as a separate bill. To reduce the costs to the stormwater management program, it is the City's intent to avoid multiple postage and printing costs by placing the fee on the annual tax bill.

What if I think my stormwater user fee charge bill has been calculated incorrectly?
Call the city and request a review of the fee calculation. 770-943-8001, ext. 307 or 354 or 770-943-8010, ext. 102.

How do I report a stormwater problem (drainage, flooding, pollution, etc.)?
Contact the city to report any drainage problems or pollutant discharges to the city's stormwater drainage system. Telephone 770-943-8010 or use our online request tracker.

Who do I call if I have additional questions?
Call the city at 770-943-8001, ext. 307 or 354; or 770-943-8010 ext. 102.