Proposed Stormwater Management Fee

The City is proposing a Stormwater Management Fee to provide funding for stormwater management, reduce the impact of stormwater pollution and flooding, and ensure Alexandria is in compliance with state and federal stormwater regulations.

Page updated on Feb 21, 2017 at 4:56 PM

City Considers Fee to Fund Mandated Stormwater Costs

The City of Alexandria has drafted a framework for a potential fee to more equitably fund the City's stormwater management program and Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandates. The City is launching a public engagement effort to explain the potential fee and solicit feedback, and City Council, which directed that such a framework be developed, will consider whether to move forward with a new fee in the course of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process.


What is Stormwater?

Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or melting snow flows across roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, and other hard surfaces (also known as impervious surfaces).  Because these surfaces don't allow stormwater to soak into the ground, the runoff can cause flooding.  As it flows across the ground, stormwater runoff may pick up pollutants like grease, oil, pet waste, fertilizer, metals, and other pollutants before entering the City's storm drain system.  Stormwater is not treated, so the City's storm drains lead directly to local waterways, such as Taylor Run, Four Mile Run, Strawberry Run, Timber Branch, Hooffs Run, Holmes Run, Backlick Run, Cameron Run, and ultimately, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.  Unless stormwater is first treated, the pollution picked up by the stormwater runoff enters our streams, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay.  Stormwater pollution and flooding harms our environment, pets and wildlife, and can damage property. 

Stormwater Infographic - Only Rain Down the Storm Drain


Stormwater Funding

The City currently funds the Stormwater Management Program through a 0.5 cent Real Estate Tax rate dedication with additional General Fund contributions.  This funding is not equitable.  The proposed Stormwater Management Fee would make the funding burden more equitable by basing the fee amount on the amount of impervious surface on a property.   

Current Funding

The City's Stormwater Management Program is currently funded through a 0.5 cent Real Estate Tax rate dedication and additional General Fund contributions.  The 0.5 cent Real Estate Tax rate dedication does not fully cover the cost of the Stormwater Management Program, which is why additional funding for the program is required from the General Fund.   Please visit www.alexandriava.gov/Budget for more details on the current budget. 

Tax vs. Fee Funding

Currently, the City's Stormwater Management Program is funded solely through taxes.  Residential properties pay approximately 58% of the current tax rate and non-residential properties pay approximately 42% of the currently tax rate.  

However, stormwater is caused by impervious area.  When we look at the impervious area in the City, residential properties contribute to approximately 37% of the impervious area and non-residential properties contribute to approximately 63% of the impervious area.  

The proposed Stormwater Management Fee would make the funding burden more equitable by basing the fee amount on the amount of impervious surface on a property.  The fee burden for the proposed Stormwater Management Fee closely matches the impervious area distribution in the City. 


Proposed Fee Structure

The proposed fee structure for residential properties, such as condos, townhomes, and single family homes, would be billed using a tiered method.  Single family residential property owners would pay based on the type of property they own.  For all non-residential properties, such as commercial, industrial, apartments, non-profits, and religious properties, the proposed fee structure would be billed using a variable method.  This means that the fee would be individually calculated for each non-residential property.   

Single Family Residential Tiered

Staff is proposing that residential properties, such as condos, townhomes, and single family homes, be billed using a tiered method.  Single family residential property owners would pay based on the type of property they own.  There are over 43,000 single family residential properties in the City, and this tiered method balances the need of the fee to be equitable while reducing the administrative costs needed. These proposed rates are based on GIS analysis of impervious area of all single family residential properties in the City.  This impervious area calculation only considers hard surfaces that a rain drop could fall on, so it does not consider the interior square footage of a house. 

This diagram shows the proposed single family residential tiers and the proposed fee on a monthly, bi-annual, and annual basis.  For example, under the proposed fee, the owner of a townhouse would pay approximately $59 per year, $29 bi-annually, or $5 per month.  

Residential Stormwater Fees

Non-Residential Variable

Staff is proposing that all non-residential properties, such as commercial, industrial, apartments, non-profits, and religious properties, be billed using a variable method.  This means that the fee would be individually calculated for each non-residential property.  There are approximately 5,000 non-residential properties in the City, compared to over 43,000 single family residential properties, so this variable fee allows an individual fee to be calculated for each non-residential property. 

The variable fee is based on a billing unit of 2,062 square feet.  The total impervious area on a property, such as a building footprint and parking lot, are calculated using GIS analysis.  The example below shows how the variable fee would be calculated for each non-residential property. 

Non-Residential Stormwater Fees

Billing Method

The fee is proposed to be incorporated into the real estate bill.  City staff looked at several factors, including ease of implementation, minimizing delinquency, and keeping administrative costs low to help determine the billing method.  Different options were considered, including using the Virginia American Water or Alexandria Renew bills, developing a stand-alone bill, and incorporating onto the real estate bill.  


Proposed Fee Reduction/Credit Policy

The draft credit policy would provide an opportunity for a fee reduction on the proposed Stormwater Management Fee.

The draft fee reduction/credit policy would provide credits for structural practices that reduce stormwater flow and pollutant load or for non-structural practices that provide stormwater benefit and education.  Staff proposes that the draft credit policy be implemented in two phases, which are described below.

Phase 1

Phase 1 of the draft credit policy would apply to non-residential and residential properties that were required to build structural best management practices (BMPs) during development review.  These BMPs must be designed and built per standard, and must be performing as designed with documentation of proper maintenance by certified a professional.  Some examples of structural BMPs that may have been built as part of development or redevelopment include:

  • Bioretention filters
  • Planter box filters
  • Filter strips
  • Sand filters
  • Green roof
  • Permeable pavers/pavement
  • Proprietary hydrodynamic or filtering devices

Phase 1 of the draft credit policy would also include a menu of non-structural BMPs, such as volunteer activities and landscape management activities, that non-residential and multi-family property owners could participate in.  Some examples of non-structural volunteer activities include:

  • Stream cleanups
  • Adopt-a-stream
  • Adopt-a-storm drain

Some examples of landscape management activities include:

  • Planting native trees
  • Conservation landscaping/xeriscaping
  • Green space conservation
  • Nutrient management planning

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the draft credit policy would apply to all single family residential properties that chose to participate and install BMPs.  These BMPs must be designed and built per standard, and must be performing as designed with documentation of proper maintenance by certified a professional.  There would be two levels of residential BMPs that could be installed, Level 1 and Level 2.  Level 1 BMPs are generally non-engineered and simpler to install, but provide less filtering than Level 2 BMPs, which may require professional installation.  Some examples of residential BMPs that may be installed include:

Level 1

  • Planting native trees
  • Conservation landscaping/xeriscaping
  • Green space conservation
  • Rain barrels
  • Roof downspout disconnection
  • No fertilizer pledge

Level 2

  • Rain gardens
  • Pervious pavers/pavement
  • Cisterns
  • Green roofs
  • Infiltration practices

Phase 2 of the draft credit policy would also include an option for non-residential and multifamily properties to participate in a public-private-partnership (P3).  A P3 could involve granting an easement to the City for the installation of voluntary, structural BMPs per design standards.  


Public Outreach

City staff is conducting public outreach about the proposed Stormwater Management Fee.  Residents interested in having City staff visit their community, business, or non-profit organizations to discuss stormwater management and the  draft fee framework should email  stormwater@alexandriava.gov to schedule a meeting.

Connect with the City on social media and sign up for eNews to receive information as this project progresses.  


Stormwater Management Fee FAQs

These FAQs address the most common questions related to the proposed Stormwater Management Fee. 

What is a Stormwater Management Fee?

A Stormwater Management Fee is a fee for services provided.  The City is proposing implementing a Stormwater Management Fee to provide a stable, equitable source of funding for the City's Stormwater Management Program.  Consistent with the Eco-City Alexandria goals, the City already provides stormwater services to the community, however, traditional additional funding, such as property taxes, that is needed to expand our services to meet new regulatory mandates, we believe, would place an unfair burden on residential properties and small businesses. 

What would the proposed Stormwater Management Fee fund?

These funds would be used to meet new unfunded State and Federal stormwater mandates, and provide dedicated funding for Alexandria's Stormwater Management Program to meet pollution reduction mandates, operate and maintain the stormwater infrastructure, and maintain our flood infrastructure and flood management program.  

Why is the City proposing a Stormwater Management Fee?

 The costs to meet the State and Federal stormwater mandates will continue to increase.  Funding a stormwater program using a fee-based approach fairly distributes the cost of the stormwater services across the city.  The proposed fee would also provide an adequate and stable source of funding that will enable an improved stormwater infrastructure improvement program and help modernize the City's aging storm drain system.

How is the proposed Stormwater Management Fee different from a tax?

The proposed Stormwater Management Fee is not a tax.  Revenue from property taxes, for example, is used to cover costs for general government services.  A fee, however, is based on the cost of providing a public service utility such as gas, electric, sanitary sewage, or drinking water. 

Who would be responsible for paying the proposed Stormwater Management Fee?

The proposed Stormwater Management Fee would be owed by all property owners in the City contributing to stormwater runoff, including businesses, home owners, state and federal government, and non-profit organizations.

How would the proposed Stormwater Management Fee funds be used in relation to General Fund revenues?

Currently a portion of the stormwater management program is partially funded by a dedicated set- aside amount of one half-cent on the real estate tax rate.  But, it's not nearly enough.  Additional General Fund contributions must be used to support the City's stormwater program. This means the stormwater program must compete with things like police, schools, and parks for funding.  The proposed Stormwater Management Fee would provide dedicated funding and take the pressure off the General Fund to pay for unfunded stormwater mandates.

How do I know the funds would be used for stormwater?

Under Virginia law, the revenue from a Stormwater Management Fee must be placed in a special fund that can only be used for stormwater management.

What if I am already providing stormwater management on my property?

Virginia law requires development projects to provide stormwater management that reduces stormwater pollution and maintains stormwater runoff at pre-development levels.  The City is proposing a credit for those property owners that are managing stormwater by discounting the proposed fee, depending on the level of stormwater management implemented on a site-by-site basis.  The credit process will evolve as the proposed fee structure is created.

What year would the proposed Stormwater Management Fee be put into effect?

If adopted, the City's proposed schedule is to send the first bill for the proposed Stormwater Management Fee in May 2018.

Are there any other municipalities that charge a Stormwater Management Fee?

Yes. Fee based programs are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and authorized by the State of Virginia as a way of addressing shortfalls in water resources.  Fee based programs have been used since 1974, and there are currently over 1,500 fee based programs in the country and 25 fee based programs in Virginia.  In the surrounding area, D.C., Prince George's County, the City of Falls Church, and others all have programs similar to the one that is proposed.  

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