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At least 24 cities/counties in Tennessee (and over 2,000 nationwide) currently have a stormwater fee. Many local governments in Middle Tennessee have already implemented similar fee programs, including:
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Stormwater runoff is the water that flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets and other hard surfaces during rain storms. Stormwater runoff is also the rain that flows off grass surfaces and wooded areas that is not absorbed into the soil. The runoff that is not absorbed into the ground pours into ditches, culverts, catch basins and storm sewers. It does not receive any treatment before entering the streams and lakes.
Water from rain or melting snow either seeps into the ground or “runs off” to lower areas, making its way into streams, lakes, and other water bodies. On its way, runoff water can pick up and carry many substances that pollute water. Examples of common pollutants include fertilizers, pesticides, pet wastes, sediments, oils, salts, trace metals, grass clippings, leaves and litter. Stormwater polluted runoff can be generated anywhere people use or alter the land, such as farms, yards, roofs, driveways, construction sites, and roadways.
As precipitation falls on undeveloped areas, it is primarily absorbed into the ground or slowly runs off into streams, rivers and other water bodies. However, development resulting in rooftops and paved areas prevent water from being absorbed and create a faster rate and cumulative amount of runoff. This development often causes localized flooding or water-quality issues.
Stormwater runoff needs to be managed just as any other natural resource. First, it is needed to minimize damages that may occur when stormwater runoff exceeds the capacity of the pipes and open channels used to carry stormwater to our rivers and streams. Second, it is also needed to maintain the quality of our natural watercourses as drinking water supplies and for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, water skiing, etc.
Historically, the City has performed maintenance of the stormwater collection system, which includes cleaning, repair and replacement of the City’s stormwater infrastructure. When funding has been available in the past, the City has implemented a small number of flooding and drainage improvement projects. The partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and future planning improvement projects will address this issue in a more comprehensive manner.
Also, the Federal Government has mandated that all cities the size of Gallatin implement a series of programs and services to improve water quality. These mandates include programs to regulate development, inform/educate the public, and the identification of potential pollution sources throughout the City.
Individual property owners own the stormwater system. Currently, in most cases, the owner of record is the responsible party to accept, to maintain, to add and to discharge stormwater flows. These systems routinely cross City-maintained property that is generally located within public street rights-of-way.
Stormwater services are primarily funded from revenue derived from property taxes collected by the City, which are held in the City’s General Fund. As such, stormwater must compete for these funds with other City services such as parks, roads, fire, police, etc. Most stormwater related work is performed by either the Public Works or the Engineering departments.Although the city has done a good job managing the existing program on a limited budget, the backlog of stormwater projects to address significant flooding issues in the City has grown and the new, federally mandated water quality programs that must be implemented have strained existing resources. Due to the high demand on the General Fund over the past several years, the City is not currently able to set aside enough funds to adequately address all the City’s stormwater needs.
By establishing a dedicated funding source through stormwater fees, the City can ensure that the revenue required to manage and maintain this important system is available. A stormwater utility program will enable the City to take a more proactive approach to stormwater management. The City will be able to provide an increased level of system maintenance and repair that is necessary to support the aging infrastructure in Gallatin. In addition, the utility fees will enable the City to construct necessary capital improvement projects to reduce the risk to public health and safety from flooding. Finally, the fees will support the development of a comprehensive stormwater management and water quality improvement plan, as mandated by Federal and State governments.
The City is responsible for managing all aspects of stormwater within its jurisdiction. The City operates and maintains drainage facilities that are located within the public right-of-way or public easements. The City is also responsible for the water quality of natural streams within its jurisdiction as designated by both the State and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The City does not maintain facilities that are located on private property or that fall under the jurisdiction of other local governments.
In the spring of 2017, the City hired an independent consulting firm to perform a review of the City’s current stormwater program and to identify long-term funding needs to address city-wide flooding concerns and regulatory requirements. A rate model was developed to evaluate potential rate structures and levels to fund the City’s program. During the budget cycle in 2018, the City Council will hold the final vote to approve the individual rate for the stormwater utility program.
The stormwater utility fee is based on the square footage of impervious surface area on your lot. The vast majority of utilities across the country have found this to be the most equitable way to charge and collect revenues for this program. A stormwater utility fee is similar to a water or sewer fee. In essence, customers pay a fee related to the amount of runoff generated from their site, which is directly related to the amount of impervious surface on the site.
Impervious surface area is any surface that does not readily absorb water and impedes the natural infiltration of water into the soil. In terms of the ordinance, it means the number of square feet of horizontal surface covered by buildings, and other impervious surfaces. Common examples include roofs, driveways, parking areas, sidewalks, patios, decks, tennis courts, concrete or asphalt streets, crushed stone and compacted gravel surfaces.
The City is responsible for providing and maintaining infrastructure for drainage and flood control as well as compliance with new Federal and State regulations on water quality. This includes installation and maintenance of storm drains, inlets, and ditches as well as ensuring State programs such as erosion and sediment control are provided on construction sites.These services are done to protect personal and public property as well as provide for a healthy environment. Funding is not provided by Federal or State government for these services.
The stormwater charge will appear on the Gallatin Public Utilities bill starting in June of 2018.
A property's value does not affect runoff, so property taxes are not the most equitable way to pay for stormwater services. For example, a high-rise building and a shopping mall may have similar value and pay similar property taxes. However, the shopping mall produces more runoff because of the amount of parking and rooftops. The fee system ensures the shopping center pays a higher stormwater fee than the high rise.
No, because it is a fee - not a tax. Taxes are based on the value of the property. The stormwater fee is assessed based on the amount of impervious surface on the property (i.e. hard surfaces such as roofs, driveways and parking lots), which is directly related to the amount of runoff the property produces. The runoff generated by these impervious surfaces contributes to pollution and flooding problems and, therefore, all property owners should pay their share of the costs.
A SFU is the average square footage of the impervious surface area (measured in square feet) for a single family residential property determined pursuant to the City’s proposed ordinance. That amount is 3,650 square feet. The SFU was determined by performing detailed measurements of impervious surfaces contained on a representative sample of single family residential properties across the City. The resulting data was analyzed and the median impervious surface value for the data set determined the SFU value.
Most single-family homes will be charged a constant monthly rate in the $5 range. This fee is currently estimated and will be finalized by City Council vote later this spring. For equity purposes, the City is considering a tiered rate system, whereby very small homes will pay a slightly lower rate and very large homes will pay a slightly higher rate. The City’s fee will appear on the Gallatin Public Utilities bill that you receive each month.
If you are located in a non-single family property, the monthly fee for individual dwelling units will be prorated based on a comparison of the typical size of your dwelling unit as compared to the typical single family home. If you are the owner of a complex that receives the utility bill for multiple units, you will receive a charge for each dwelling unit in your complex. The City’s fee will appear on the Gallatin Public Utilities bill that you receive each month.
All non-residential properties will be billed at a rate based on their measured impervious area. To determine the monthly fee, divide the total impervious area of your property by 3,650 square feet (or one Single Family Unit) to obtain the number of SFUs and multiply by the base single family rate (currently estimated at approximately $5 per month per SFU). Impervious areas were determined by analyzing aerial photographs to identify the amount of impervious surface on each property. For the majority of properties, the City’s fee will be billed on the Gallatin Public Utilities bill. However, in some circumstances, alternative billing methods may be used.
Yes, the City is in the process of developing a fee reduction/credit manual that will provide opportunities for customers to reduce their monthly fee. Credits/reductions will be awarded to customers that install best management practices on site that reduce the runoff burden to the City’s stormwater system. More information will be available in the City’s Stormwater Utility Fee Credit Manual.
The revenues generated by this fee will be used to fund all stormwater-related services, which include:
The fee will also pay for annual compliance requirements of the City’s NPDES MS4 permit, which is a program mandated by the State and Federal government for all communities similar in size to Gallatin.
The stormwater program focuses on reducing the potential for the loss of life or property due to flooding and improving and protecting the quality of our lakes, rivers and streams.
Drainage problems may include roadway or structural flooding, clogged or failing underground pipes and culverts, stream bank erosion and stormwater pollution affecting a stream.
Everyone in the City benefits from the Stormwater Management Program. When stormwater runs off your property, the City must have a program and funding to manage the increase in runoff and pollutants. Direct benefits may include:
You can call the City of Gallatin Public Works at 615-451-5909. We will investigate your concern and advise you of what action can be taken.
Any questions regarding the Gallatin Stormwater Utility should be directed to the City’s Stormwater Management Program at 615-451-5965. The primary contact is Jennifer Watson - email Jennifer Watson.