“Rain Tax” in Maryland?
Those of you tracking recent outcries over new stormwater utility fees in Maryland (aka “rain taxes”) should read this editorial in the Baltimore Sun. It is also good reading for those who have failed to take the time to understand the issue.
Sadly, the language of this editorial will likely be lost on a lot of people. Folks are so tired of taxes, and to the average person, stormwater pollution seems abstract and driven by government agencies they may resent (EPA). Putting in simpler terms like having drinkable water, breathable air, and routing stormwater from streets (and the maintenance involved in each) is more tangible.
I actually prefer an even simpler approach: storm drains are the only utility that we have been getting for free historically. Water, sewer, electric, gas, cable-we all pay for the infrastructure in our monthly bills. But so far, we have gotten a free ride out of storm drains. Baltimore City recently spent over $7 million to replace a couple blocks of storm drain due to a sink hole that formed over a failed storm drain that was built in the 1890s.
Understanding this issue is one thing. Staying informed about the progress or proposed fees is another. Fortunately for folks in Baltimore, this is easy. For progress of the council hearings regarding the City’s proposed stormwater remediation fee, Ordinance 12-0155, visit www.cleanwaterbaltimore.org, and click on the stormwater tab. Draft rules and regulations (Draft Baltimore City Stormwater Utility Rules and Regulations) are also available on the website. They include recommendations of the credit task force, and provide further information on billing policies and appeals. It’s a working document, and it won’t be finalized until the City Council has approved the ordinance for the stormwater fee. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to the credit types recommended by the Task Force, two other credit types were added:
- Low Development Credit, which allows small non-residential properties to be charged the equivalent of a Tier 1 residential charge
- Vacant Lot Credit, which rewards property owners if there is less than 50 sf of impervious area on the property and if they demonstrate responsible ownership (no Housing code violations)