The Stormwater Fee Increase Set-Up Continues: Increasing Taxes on Residents to Subsidize Developers

Remember the political debate over creating a “lockbox” to ensure new taxes/fees were used for a particular purpose?   Candidates debated if voters might accept higher taxes for new transportation projects – if the new funds could not be siphoned off later, for other less-popular expenses.

The Board of County Supervisors is engaged now in a sleight-of-hand that demonstrates why the lockbox concept is popular.  The supervisors are quietly restructuring the county budget, transferring $1 million in expenses from the Development Permit Fee to the Stormwater Management Fee.

As described in the 2005 Service Efforts and Accomplishment Report for Watershed Management, developers pay a Development Permit Fee to “meet expenses of site plan and lot plan review, site development inspections, and erosion control inspections.”  In contrast, “[r]evenue from the stormwater management fee is dedicated solely to the operation and construction of watershed management projects.” 

In the budget being voted on soon, supervisors plan to switch 70% of the cost of the Watershed Inspections Function away from developers.  Developers who build new stormwater facilities will still pay 30% – perhaps enough to cover initial inspection costs, but all future inspections and repairs will be covered by the residents.   

Who benefits from this shift?  Hmmm..

When you buy a car, you anticipate future costs for inspections and maintenance.  Those costs are directly associated with the initial acquisition of the car; they are your costs – but gee, wouldn’t you like to shift your long-term car ownership costs to someone else?  That’s what the supervisors are doing with stormwater infrastructure, bailing out the developers so they can avoid paying for long-term watershed inspection costs.

Next year, there will be an amazing discovery.  After transferring $1 million in costs to the Stormwater Management Fee account… future costs will exceed projected revenues.  The Stormwater Management Fee will have to be increased.   All the property owners in the county will pay a higher fee, while developers will see lower costs.  

2011 is an election year.  Someone will have to be blamed for the fee increase. 

Prince William politicians are skilled at blaming state/Federal officials for problems created by land use decisions made by the county supervisors.   We hear every year about “unfunded mandates” and unfair burdens imposed by Democrats/Republicans in Richmond and Washington. 

In 2010-2011, Prince William will get specific pollution limits and deadlines for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, from the Environmental Protection Agency and different state agencies.  That’s because a judge is finally requiring compliance with the 1972 Federal Clean Water Act.  It requires polluters to minimize their pollution – fair enough concept, right?

For decades, Prince William has allowed new development to create excessive amounts of stormwater.  It pollutes local streams with too much nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment, then carries that pollution downstream all the way to the bay.  It makes sense that the county must limit the pollution it creates.  Fixing the stormwater problem is not an “unfunded mandate.”   It’s just a fair requirement for polluters to clean up the mess they make, and it’s long past time for Prince William to start cleaning up its act.

Still, look for county supervisors to blame Washington/Richmond for the stormwater fee increase in 2011.  Blame Congress, Obama, the General Assembly – anyone but the members of the Board of County Supervisors, who (shh!  hush!!  keep this between us!!!)  created the need for the 2011 fee increase with a budget decision in 2010, and with inadequate controls on stormwater runoff for the last 50 years.

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2 comments so far

  1. […] inspection costs, but all future inspections and repairs will be covered by the residents.” Click here to read the entire article. Link to this […]

  2. Stormwater Control on

    Doesn’t surprise me that stormwater control prices continue to rise, especially with all the flooding that has been going on and these erratic weather patterns.
    -Jack


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