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.
The latest milestone in the implementation of the City’s Stormwater Utility Fee is the launch of a credits program to recognize stormwater mitigation efforts by non-single family residential (nonresidential) property owners.
- To view the Stormwater Utility Fee for any property (single family residential or nonresidential): Use the property search or Stormwater Utility Fee Viewer and enter the property address.
- To apply for a credit for nonresidential property: Use the property search and enter the property address.
Learn more about the Single Family Residential and Nonresidential Fees and Credit Policies below:
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.
What does the Stormwater Utility Pay for?
The City of Alexandria provides stormwater management services focused on improving stormwater quality, addressing flooding and drainage issues, and operating and maintaining public stormwater infrastructure. Within the City of Alexandria, there are over 13,000 stormwater structures that catch runoff from impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots as it enters the storm sewer system. The storm sewer includes over 185 miles of storm pipes that discharges to local waterways through over 400 outfalls. Pollution in stormwater is reduced before it gets to our waterways by over 650 public and over 125 private best management practices, like rain gardens and bioretention planters along streets. The Stormwater Utility organizes the management of stormwater programs and infrastructure, so that a dedicated stream of funding can be established.
- Keeping our roads clean (street sweeping)
- Maintaining, cleaning, and repairing the public separate storm sewer system
- Complying with federal and state requirements related to stormwater and water quality
- Planning, design, engineering, construction, and financing new and updated stormwater facilities
- Maintaining, cleaning, and repairing publicly-owned best management practices
- Monitoring local water quality and running an illicit discharge identification and elimination program
- Flood mitigation
- And more
Fee vs. Tax Funding
Creation of the Stormwater Utility Fee allows for a more equitable funding source for stormwater management expenditures by basing the fee amount on the amount of impervious surface on a property. When we look at the impervious area in the City, residential properties contribute to approximately 37% of the impervious area and nonresidential properties contribute to approximately 63% of the impervious area. The Stormwater Utility Fee distribution closely matches the impervious area distribution in the City.
Prior to January 1, 2018, the City's Stormwater Management Program was funded solely through taxes through a 0.5 cent Real Estate Tax rate dedication and additional General Fund contributions. Residential properties paid approximately 58% of the tax rate (compared to 37% of the impervious area) and nonresidential properties paid approximately 42% of the currently tax rate (compared to approximately 63% of the impervious area).
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.
The Credit Policy will provide an opportunity for a fee reduction on the Stormwater Utility Fee. The policy will be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 of the Credit Policy was adopted by City Council on October 24 and will be implemented with the first billing cycle. The Phase 1 Credit Policy includes potential fee reductions on nonresidential properties for: 1) mandatory stormwater facility Best Management Practices (BMPs) and detention practices installed during development and redevelopment, and 2) voluntary litter clean-up activities. 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 nonresidential properties. The second phase will be developed and implemented after the first billing cycle.
Staff's credit policy is based on the following key elements:
- Provide a simple to administer and easy to understand process
- Credit Application window opens December 1 and closes February 15
- Applications apply to subsequent May and October bills (total credit is split evenly over the two bills)
- Annual application is required
- Credit Cap of 50% for all practices combined: In no case shall the maximum dollar credit amount exceed 50% of the stormwater utility fee for the property.
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
- October 19, 2017 News Release - Stormwater Utility Fee to be billed on Real Estate Bill in May 2018
- November 1, 2017 FYI Alexandria eNews - Phase 1 Nonresidential Credit Policy Adopted
- December 7, 2017 News Release - Implementation with New Viewer, Credits Program, and Open House
Stormwater Utility Fee FAQs
These FAQs address the most common questions related to the Stormwater Utility Fee and Credit Policies.
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 faith-based and non-profit organizations.
6. How will the Stormwater Utility Fee funds be used in relation to General Fund revenues?
Up through December 31, 2017, a portion of the stormwater management program was partially funded by a dedicated set- aside amount of one half-cent on the real estate tax rate. But, it' was not nearly enough. Additional General Fund contributions had to be used to support the City's stormwater program. This means the stormwater program had to compete with things like police, schools, and parks for funding. The Stormwater Utility Fee provides 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 was adopted.