Stormwater Management Is Expensive. How Should Your Community Pay for It?

Maintaining stormwater systems doesn’t have to be a funding nightmare.

It’s a perfect storm: Your community is required by federal law to pay for stormwater solutions, but budgets are tighter than ever and taxpayers are strapped. How can your municipality afford to maintain an effective stormwater system?

The answer for an increasing number of municipalities is a stormwater utility. It provides a dedicated, stable funding source for stormwater management. The funding from a stormwater utility doesn’t fluctuate and can’t be diverted to other municipal programs. It even seems fairer to citizens because the only people who pay for it are the ones who benefit from it. Sounds like the perfect solution, doesn’t it?

But … and there’s always a “but” … stormwater utilities often face daunting (and costly) legal challenges. Inexperienced leadership—or no leadership at all—has doomed many such projects across the country. And most people simply don’t understand the need for stormwater solutions: It’s the kind of municipal service that’s only visible when it doesn’t work, making it hard for the average business or homeowner to appreciate.

What should a concerned community official do in the face of these looming challenges?

Answer: Start with this FREE Special Report, Stormwater Funding: Successfully Establishing a Stormwater Management Utility from the experts at Stormwater: The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals.

This Special Report was written specifically for you, and for every municipal official considering a stormwater utility to pay for stormwater management and comply with federal law.

Stormwater Funding: Successfully Establishing a Stormwater Management Utility is a must-read for any official facing this daunting task. This free report will help you

  • Understand the pros and cons of establishing a stormwater utility
  • Learn how to educate the public before problems arise
  • Discover how the best stormwater solutions succeed in the real world
  • Establish rates that are both fair and acceptable to your community
  • Succeed in resolving your stormwater issues to the satisfaction of both federal officials and your own community

A Complete and Thorough Guide to a Vexing Public Works Nightmare

You may have read about the obstacles arising around the country to stormwater utilities. In Adams County, CO, citizen opposition to what opponents call a “rain tax” have led to a large-scale lawsuit. Opponents even have a website dedicated to raising funds to pay for their efforts to kill the county’s stormwater solution—and to make it worse, county officials have muddled up data and billing.

Sometimes it might seem that successfully establishing a plan to pay for your own stormwater solution is an impossible dream. But it’s not—not if you start by thoroughly educating yourself on the logistics of setting up a stormwater utility, learn what steps to take and what to avoid, and find out how to set rates fairly.

In Downer’s Grove, IL, nonprofits succeeded in having their liability for stormwater systems funding lifted, enough for an 8% drop in funding over the coming year.

In New Jersey, desperate towns have even been selling off their stormwater systems to private companies—leaving consumers at the mercy of unregulated price hikes.

And all of those logistics are outlined in straightforward, jargon-free language in this FREE Special Report. Read it to find out how to combat legal challenges, and prevent them … how to get businesses and homeowners to willingly pay their bills, and to get right on board with the program from the start! It can be done, and the path forward is all in this FREE Special Report from Stormwater.

Meeting Funding Requirements for a Stormwater Utility

This free Special Report actually starts out by explaining additional funding mechanisms for stormwater systems and other stormwater solutions, including the pros and cons for each one, along with real-world examples. For instance, Los Angeles raised $500M in 2004 via a bond referendum for stormwater program improvements. However, as the report notes, this level of funding is unprecedented, and can’t be counted on to pay for day-to-day operations.

Other options for funding your stormwater system you may read about for the first time in this detailed report include 319(h) grants, special purpose local option sales taxes, the Clean Water State Revolving Load Fund, system development charges, new development impact fees, and, of course, the general tax fund.

How many of these has your community already considered? Are any of them sufficient to fund your stormwater solutions, or feasible in your community? If the answer to these questions is “no,” please read on to find out more about the stormwater management program funding option that so many other municipalities rely on.

Challenge #1: Preparing a plan

As this report demonstrates, the most damaging thing that a stormwater utility champion can do is plunge ahead without a detailed, data-backed stormwater management plan in place. Your chance of success is greatly improved if you can present your stakeholders with a clear roadmap, including goals, one-time capital costs, and details of how revenue will be spent.

The factors you must include in such a plan are outlined in detail in this special report, so there’s no need to guess. How far ahead should your plan look? What other “hidden” expenses should you include? Don’t forget to take other potential revenues into account, to ensure that your plan is transparent and understandable by the public and by municipal officials.

Challenge #2: Public resistance

The average resident probably never gives stormwater runoff a second thought. Only those who have actually suffered a flooded basement or street are already prepped for the idea of paying for stormwater management.

Now that you’ve learned about creating a complete stormwater solutions plan first, you’re well prepared to begin public outreach. In this report, you’ll find out how not to upset your constituents and taxpayers when presenting the idea, and understand the importance of educating every stakeholder up front. Make everyone a partner at the beginning, and you won’t be creating plaintiffs later on.

Consult this Special Report for ideas on demonstrating the benefits of your stormwater management program and the potential dangers of an underfunded one. Find out about the outreach materials available at the EPA. Learn how to get elected decision-makers on your side. (Hint: If they can see themselves as heroes of the environment, your program will probably sail through.) Get ideas on groups who might be your best allies. It’s all in this Special Report.

Challenge #3: Lawsuits

If you’ve read all the horror stories, you might well be inclined to skip the whole idea of a stormwater utility as the solution to your stormwater system funding issues.

Rest assured that according to the stormwater utility experts consulted for this report, the motivations behind all the costly court cases you’ve read about are not only fairly straightforward, they’re also preventable, as long as a municipality is well prepared.

Challenge #4: Setting a fair and reasonable rate structure

This is where many municipalities struggle the most. First, the biggest controversy: Is it a fee or a tax? Lawsuits claiming that cities can’t levy such “taxes” abound, and have doomed many a stormwater utility. But if you’re prepared with a firm understanding about why it’s really a fee, and not a tax, you’re halfway home. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you read this Special Report.

What else can you do to prevent resistance? This report guides you in the various ways that businesses and homeowners can opt out of the stormwater management program by limiting their use of the utility. These ideas can be as simple as a homeowner installing a rain barrel or as complex as a large business building its own stormwater systems.

Above all, you must understand how to make the rates for your stormwater solutions program fair and equitable. Some rate structures can get complicated; that’s when billing mistakes become a nightmare, and customers can’t easily see how the rates make sense.

Instead, start with the advice in this guide for setting less complicated but still equitable rate structures, such as charging by the equivalent residential unit, or ERU. Other ideas in this report include determining how much runoff is created by different types of property use and using those distinctions in billing.

A One-Stop Reference

Stormwater Funding: Successfully Establishing a Stormwater Management Utility includes all this critical guidance and more: Specific, real-world case studies, additional rate structure ideas and additional reading that will help you hone your plans for stormwater management funding.

For a problem as complex—and important—as municipal stormwater solutions, it’s far too easy to get lost in the research and a bewildering maze of suggestions and ideas. Too easy to lose sight of the critical issues and objectives. Too easy to overlook that one factor that will trip you up down the road, when nonprofits take you to court, or residents flood your customer service line with angry phone calls.

But you can avoid all that by starting out with this clear, straightforward guide that lays out every step you should take to successfully establish your municipality’s stormwater utility—or even to uncover additional stormwater system funding options you hadn’t considered that are listed in this report.

Don’t wait until the lawyers are knocking at your office door, and your phone starts ringing off the hook. Or worse, allowing your stormwater management program to fall out of compliance with federal regulations and generate fines or allow a disaster to occur, all because of inadequate funding.

Download this FREE Special Report right now, and make it your roadmap to successfully funding your own stormwater solution. The experts at Stormwater understand your need for accurate information; they live this topic every single day, and many contributors to this Special Report have been in the trenches of municipal stormwater management.

It will cost you nothing to download this report, but what you’ll gain could save your community hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s what you’ll call savvy financial management.

Yours for cost-effective, efficient stormwater solutions,

Janice Kaspersen
Editor, Stormwater

PS: Downloading this report could be the most effective, valuable $0 your community will ever spend.

PPS: Did you know that by some estimates, one-quarter of all new utilities have been challenged in court? It’s a scary statistic, but there are ways to avoid these challenges, and they’re all in this FREE Special Report.

Comments
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