Salisbury Sets Stormwater Utility Fee

OCEAN CITY – With funding needed to address the city’s failing system that continues to cause flooding and impact surrounding waterways, the Salisbury City Council settled this week on establishing a stormwater utility fee.

An ordinance setting the Stormwater Utility Fee came before the City Council on Monday evening for final approval. The approval of the ordinance is in accordance with Chapter 13.30 of the City Code that was approved in November establishing a Stormwater Utility Fund in the City of Salisbury.

The ordinance states, “The Code defines the Stormwater Utility Fee to fund the cost of operating, maintaining and improving the Stormwater System in the City, and the Stormwater Utility Fee is charged on an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) Rate. Chapter 13.30.050 requires the City to establish the annual Equivalent Residential Unit Rate, and the Director of Public Works provided the City Council with a recommendation of the proposed annual Equivalent Residential Unit Rate at the February 2, 2015 City Council meeting. The Director of Public Works has made a diligent effort to notify as many individuals and organizations as practicable that may be potentially impacted by the fee.”

Director of Public Works Mike Moulds submitted the Stormwater Utility will become effective July 1, and the city needs to establish the fee structure for the utility. Once the fee has been established, sample invoices will be sent to all properties prior to the actual invoice being issued.

According to Moulds, Salisbury is comprised of 12,093 parcels, of which 7,094 are single family residential and 4,999 are non-single family residential. Public Works contracted with the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center (EFC) to perform a Feasibility Study for the stormwater utility. As part of that study, EFC determined that the average impervious area on a single family residential parcel is 3,344 square feet. This value is the basis for establishing ERU rates.

Additionally, Public Works contracted with the Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative (ESRGC) at Salisbury University to develop the impervious area calculations for each non-single family residential parcel for the basis of the individual property fee assessment. ESRGC found that of the 4,999 non-single family residential parcels, 3,635 had less than 3,344 square feet of impervious surface and therefore will be billed for one ERU. The other 1,364 parcels have ERU values ranging from two to 628. The total number of ERUs from those 1,364 parcels is 19,196 ERU.

The EFC report recommended a fee of $40 per ERU with a standalone Stormwater Department but since the stormwater utility has been created as part of the Public Works Department, the fee recommendation has been reduced to $20 per ERU.

The bills for non-single family parcels with greater than one ERU range from $40 to $12,560, with the average bill being $281. Between the numbers of residential single family, non-single family at one ERU and non-single family greater than one ERU, the projected annual revenue equals about $598,500.

Moulds presented a table listing projects included in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) from Fiscal Year 2016 thru Fiscal Year 2020. The table identifies other stormwater utility expenditures, such as the street sweeping program and replacement of aging stormwater mains and inlets. The CIP identifies bond monies for large infrastructure projects as well as assumptions for grant funding. With those funding sources in mind, the average annual fee per ERU to be able to complete the CIP is projected to be $23.45, which is in line with the proposed $20 per ERU fee.

Moulds concluded the revenue projections do not account for possible credits due to stormwater best management practices. Those credits will be evaluated based on applications over the course of the first year and be factored into the fee recommendation for Fiscal Year 2017.

Prior to the vote, Erik Fisher of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) commended city officials and staff.

“You all have been talking about this for some time, and you are leaders on this issue but you’re certainly not alone. Over 1,400 communities across the nation have taken this step, and with an affirmative step we will join them,” Fisher said. “CBF works to help local communities like Salisbury meet their needs and obligations in respect to clean water. We have seen a number of these ordinances and I have to say that I don’t think the city’s proposed ordinance could be any better. It is a solid program that you and your staff have put together.”

Council President Jake Day also commended the city’s staff.

“It is not just to be leaders but the goal here is to be fair, and to acknowledge that we have infrastructure that for whatever reason in a century we have not taken care of it, and we have a responsibility to do so,” Day said.

Day acknowledged a current Senate bull that if passed would enforce a stormwater utility fee across the state.

“One thing that read clear to me was that all jurisdictions will be required to have a stormwater utility of some sort in the very near future, and I would rather do this without the state having to tell us to do it,” Day said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the stormwater utility fee.