Proposed Storm Water Utility Fee Changes

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett sent proposed legislation to the Montgomery County Council that amends the Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC). The draft Legislation and Executive Regulations will enable the County to comply with a new State law requiring certain jurisdictions, including Montgomery County, to adopt storm water utility fees. The legislation provides for a three-year phase-in for those whose fees will increase under the law’s changes.
The WQPC, which was first authorized in 2002, is an excise tax levied against all residential property owners and a limited number of non-residential property owners to help maintain storm water facilities and enhance water quality. The proposed legislation adds the following items required under the new State law, which are not currently included in the County’s WQPC:

* Adds all non-residential properties to the WQPC assessment. Currently, the only non-residential properties that are covered are those draining to a residential storm water facility.
* Adds a credit program that reduces the charge for property owners with storm water systems on their properties.
* Adds a financial hardship exemption for property owners.

The proposed change to the Executive Regulations will allow the County to vary the WQPC for single family residential properties based on the amount of impervious surface on the property.
“These changes required by state law will allow Montgomery County to meet our regulatory obligations and continue our leadership in restoring our local streams and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Department of Environmental Protection Director Bob Hoyt.
The WQPC funds mandatory activities required by the County’s Maryland Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, including storm water facility maintenance and inspection, stream restoration projects, storm water pond retrofits, stream monitoring, installation and maintenance of on-site storm water management techniques and public education and outreach.
“Restoring degraded streams and the Anacostia River requires a serious investment on everyone’s part,” said Diane Cameron, conservation program director Audubon Naturalist Society. “This revised Water Quality Protection Charge will help ensure that everyone pays their fair share of the costs of reducing pollution and building rain gardens, green roofs, and other green infrastructure projects in Montgomery County.”

By increasing the billing base over the entire County, the change is expected to allow the County to fund the current six-year capital improvement plan budget of $290 million while keeping the rate increases to a minimum. The estimated fiscal year 2014 charge for a single-family property owner under the existing law would have been $98 a year. The proposed legislation will vary that charge, based on the size of the property, from $34 to $171 a year. Should an individual property owner’s charge increase, the proposed legislation allows for a three-year phase-in of the increase.

The proposed legislation and executive regulations are available on the County’s website. More information on the WQPC is also available on the County’s website.

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