The City of Alexandria has adopted a Stormwater Utility Fee to more equitably fund the City's Stormwater Management Program and Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandates. The Stormwater Management Program supports the Eco-City Alexandria Clean Waterways initiative by managing the quantity and quality of stormwater discharges from the City's separate storm sewer system permitted outfalls. The City is continuing a public engagement effort to explain the Stormwater Utility Fee and solicit feedback on the draft fee reduction/credit policy.
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.
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 Stormwater Utility Fee will make the funding burden more equitable by basing the fee amount on the amount of impervious surface on a property.
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 runoff 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.
Starting May 2018 with the first billing of the adopted Stormwater Utility Fee, funding stormwater will be more equitable by basing the fee amount on the amount of impervious surface on a property. The Stormwater Utility Fee distribution closely matches the impervious area distribution in the City.
The fee structure for residential properties, such as condos, townhomes, and single family homes, will be billed using a tiered method. Single family residential property owners will 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 fee structure will be billed using a variable or calculated method. This means that the fee will be individually calculated for each non-residential property.
Single Family Residential Tiered
Residential properties, such as condos, townhomes, and single family homes, will be billed using a tiered method. Single family residential property owners will 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 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 single family residential tiers and the fee on an annual basis. For example, the owner of a townhouse would pay approximately $59 per year, $29 bi-annually, or $5 per month.
All non-residential properties, such as commercial, industrial, apartments, non-profits, and religious properties, will be billed using a calculated method. This means that the fee will 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 calculated fee allows an individual fee to be calculated for each non-residential property.
The calculated 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. 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 building. The example below shows how the calculated fee will be calculated for each non-residential property.
The fee will 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.
Recommended Credit Policy
The Credit Policy will provide an opportunity for a fee reduction on the proposed Stormwater Utility Fee. The policy will be implemented in two phases.
Phase 1 of the Credit Policy will be implemented with the first billing cycle, and includes potential fee reductions on non-residential properties for: 1) mandatory stormwater facility Best Management Practices (BMPs) and detention practices installed during development and redevelopment, and 2) voluntary activities. The Credit Program webpage gives more information about the Phase 1 Credit Policy, the draft Credit Manual and the Application Process.
Phase 2 of the Credit Policy will be developed separately and include: 1) single family homeowner practices and 2) public-private partnership (P3) approaches for non-residential properties. The second phase will be developed and implemented after the first billing cycle.
City staff is conducting public outreach by directly engaging the community about the Stormwater Utility Fee per the adopted Stormwater Public Outreach Framework. Staff has engaged with numerous groups, associations, committees, commissions, land owners, non-profits, and individuals through in-person presentations, social media, and other contemporary public outreach strategies found in the adopted outreach strategy. Residents interested in having City staff visit their community, business, or non-profit organizations to discuss stormwater management and the Stormwater Utility Fee, or with specific questions, should email email@example.com to schedule a meeting or ask questions.
- September 15, 2016 News Release - Draft Stormwater Utility Framework
- May 4, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee Adopted
- October 3, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee Open House
Stormwater Utility Fee FAQs
These FAQs address the most common questions related to the proposed Stormwater Utility Fee.
1. What is a Stormwater Utility Fee?
A Stormwater Utility Fee is a fee for services provided. The City is implementing a Stormwater Utility 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.
2. What will the Stormwater Utility Fee fund?
These funds will 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.
3. Why is the City introducing a Stormwater Utility 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 fee will 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.
4. How is the Stormwater Utility Fee different from a tax?
The Stormwater Utility 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.
5. Who will be responsible for paying the Stormwater Utility Fee?
The Stormwater Utility Fee will 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.
6. How will the Stormwater Utility 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 Stormwater Utility Fee will provide dedicated funding and take the pressure off the General Fund to pay for unfunded stormwater mandates.
7. How do I know the funds will be used for stormwater?
Under Virginia law, the revenue from a Stormwater Utility Fee must be placed in a special fund that can only be used for stormwater management.
8. 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 developing a credit for those property owners that are managing stormwater by discounting the fee, depending on the level of stormwater management implemented on a site-by-site basis. The credit process will evolve as the fee structure is created.
9. What year will the Stormwater Utility Fee be put into effect?
The City's schedule is to send the first bill for the Stormwater Utility Fee in May 2018.
10. Are there any other municipalities that charge a Stormwater Utility Fee?
Yes. Fee based programs are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and authorized by the Commonwealth 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.