What is a Storm Water Utility?
A storm water utility is similar to water, sewer and other utilities that you are familiar with. These utilities charge a fee for services provided. In this case, the service is the control of storm water runoff through construction, operation and maintenance of a storm water system.
 
Why do we need a Storm Water Utility?
There are two main reasons. First, additional revenue is needed for storm water operations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring Monroe, and over 400 other municipalities (i.e. counties, cities, townships, colleges, prisons, ODOT) in Ohio, to improve storm water operations to prevent pollution and improve storm water quality as part of the "National Pollution Discharge Elimination System." Second, dedicated revenue is needed to maintain and improve the storm sewer system.
 
What is the concern about storm water quality?
A major storm water quality concern is "non-point source pollution". As the name implies, non-point source pollution comes from numerous locations and is carried through runoff. The types of pollutants include toxins, metals, oils, nutrients, and fecal coliform bacteria from septic systems, leaking sanitary sewers, farm animals, and pets. These directly impact water quality and now represent a large percentage of the pollution picture. Street sweeping, elimination of septic flows and leaking sanitary sewers, and increased cleaning of storm drains can control these pollutants.
 
What is the service charge based on?
Eventually, the service charge will be based on the amount of impervious area within a property. Impervious area is the best indicator of how much you use the storm water system. Single-family homes provide the basis for the rate. We are currently in the process of determining the average amount of impervious area for a single-family residence, which will form the basis for our storm water utility rate structure. For now, we are charging a single rate for residential properties and another for commercial, institutional, and industrial properties, regardless of property size, to provide income for our storm water program until an impervious area-based rate structure can be developed.
 
How much is the Storm Water Utility charge?
The rate has been set at $3.00 per month for residential properties and $5.00 for commercial, institutional, and industrial parcels.
 
What is an impervious surface?
When property is improved through buildings, pavement, or trafficked gravel, water is prevented or retarded from getting into the soil. These areas are termed impervious surfaces because they restrict natural infiltration and increase runoff from the property.
 
Is this a one-time charge?
NO. It is an ongoing fee for the development of new storm water operations, control facilities, their maintenance and water quality compliance.
 
How is property measured?
Impervious area on non-residential properties was measured from recent aerial photos with the actual measurement done via computer imaging. This produces a high degree of accuracy.
 
Who has to pay?
All developed property within the City will pay the storm water service fee. That includes houses, schools, public facilities, churches and businesses. The only exceptions are public streets, which are designed to collect and carry storm water runoff.
 
Is there a review process for the assessed service charge?
Once the impervious area-based rate structure is in place, there will be a review process. It will include a review of the accuracy of the City's impervious surface measurements and the calculation of the service fee.
 
How much money will this service fee raise for the Storm Water Utility?
Currently approximately $140,000 annually. This program will fund capital improvements, operations, maintenance, development review, administrative services, field inspection and regulatory compliance.
 
Why are churches and schools being billed?
The service charge, just like water and sewer fees, is based upon the cost of services provided. Because this is not a tax, it is collected from all customers who receive service. Churches and schools contribute a significant amount of runoff to the City because of their size and amount of hard surface. They will be treated like all other customers under the rate structure.
 
Can I deduct the storm water fee on my taxes?
For commercial property owners, the IRS, depending on your specific tax situation may consider the charge a cost of doing business. Residential property owners will likely not be able to deduct the storm water fee on their taxes.
 
How will I be billed?
The storm water fee will appear on your monthly utility bill. The storm water portion of the fees collected will be remitted back to the City from the water utility.
 
Is it possible to have my fee reduced?
The City is investigating a fee credit program. Property owners who reduce the amount of runoff leaving their property may have their fee reduced by a percentage that will be determined as part of the impervious area-based fee rate structure investigations.
 
I have installed detention basins on my property. Shouldn't this be reflected in a reduced fee?
The City anticipates that there will be credits available for reducing the volume of runoff once the impervious area-based rate structure is implemented.
 
How can you impose this fee without a vote?
This is not a tax but a user fee. A public vote is not required to impose a user fee. The City Council has reviewed a number of options for funding storm water management. Ordinance 2003-25 was presented in two reading for approval to Council and went into effect September 25, 2003.
 
What happens if I don't pay?
Most of our water utility customers have an excellent payment history and have been able to remain current with their bills. Unpaid bills will be assessed through the County Auditor as part of your real estate tax bill.
 
Where does the money go?
Some of the other important components of this program include: a) increased maintenance of the City's storm water system, b) street sweeping, c) inspection and enforcement of storm water regulations and standards, d) public information and education, e) construction of long overdue capital storm water facilities.
 
Isn't there already a fund for storm water?
NO. Ditch cleaning, street sweeping, culvert repair, and storm drain cleanout are currently covered by the City’s Street Department budget.
 
Why not add this to my property taxes?
Property taxes are based upon the assessed valuation of land and their improvements. These values have little relationship to an individual property's use of the storm drainage system. A service fee, applied to all parcels, is a more equitable method of funding the program. Many tax-exempt properties, such as schools, churches and government agencies are large contributors to the storm water runoff problem. They will pay their share of the utility fee.
 
Is this money going to take care of the drainage problems created by new development?
NO. Every developer is required to provide the drainage improvements necessary to handle the runoff generated by that development. Developers must also pay an impact fee or construct an equivalent portion of the City's storm drain system to relieve the impact of the new development on the overall system. All impervious area created by these new developments will be included within the storm water utility and will pay the service fee just as everyone else in the City.
 
I am a renter; do I pay the fee or does my landlord?
Under most conditions, the bill will go to whoever pays the water bill for the property.
 
The City required me to build all these extra parking spaces. Why should I have to pay a service charge for them now?
Parking spaces are based on standard estimates of traffic and need, and are necessary requirements of doing business.
 
My business is not connected to the City's drainage system. Why should I have to pay?
Your property may not be physically connected to the drainage system in the same manner as water or sewer but you are still provided service. How? The City's storm water program improves and maintains those upstream storm water facilities that protect your property. They establish design criteria, and regulate development that helps control off site storm water problems. This program is taking steps to reduce storm water pollutants that degrade our culinary water quality and the environment of the City. Every property owner in Monroe is served by these activities.
 
Has this program been used anywhere else?
YES. There are many storm water utilities in large and small communities throughout the nation, with many more in the planning stages. Locally, Middletown, Hamilton, Lebanon, Franklin, Trenton, Mason and Cincinnati have implemented or will soon implement fees for storm water management.
 
How can I be sure this fee won't pay for other City projects?
Under law, storm water fees may not exceed the cost of providing storm water improvements and services. Your fees will go into an "enterprise" or special fund that will be used only for the storm water program. Professional auditors, to ensure compliance, will audit this fund annually.
 
I have a storm drainage problem, what shall I do?
Give us a call at (513) 539-7374 or email us and we will be happy to see what can be done.
Through the adoption of Ordinance No. 2003-25 City Council determined an equitable approach to funding storm water management services and facilities. A schedule of service charges upon properties that is related to the burden of storm water quality control service requirements and costs posed by properties throughout the City was adopted.