Why should you pay for a rainy day? Well, the so-called “rain tax” is not really a tax at all. It is a stormwater utility fee that generates funds for a locality to use for a variety of stormwater projects. Long ago, the idea of a tax or an increase in real estate tax was dismissed in Hampton Roads because it automatically made certain institutions such as churches and government offices exempt. As the runoff from these buildings also contributes to the stormwater system, it was felt that it would be inappropriate to exempt them from the fee.
Stormwater utility fees fund three major activities:
1. Flood Control – The construction of new stormwater infrastructure to prevent or minimize flooding.
2. Water Quality – Complying with water quality regulations necessary to clean up or prevent pollution of our rivers, oceans and streams.
3. Maintenance – This represents the majority of the utility fee. The stormwater system must be cleaned, repaired or replaced routinely and existing stormwater management facilities, both private and public, must be inspected to ensure that they are working properly.
Many people feel that their small house or business does not contribute significantly to the stormwater system. However, the utility fee is based on the amount of impervious area each customer has. A shopping mall pays much more than a single family home. A large church with extensive parking pays more than a small one with less paved surfaces. All residents rely on their city or county’s stormwater system. Roads must be properly drained to be safe. The quality of our natural waterways enhances our quality of life. In fact, our property values are directly affected by the quality of our environment. Natural waterways are a part of life here in Hampton Roads. If these waterways fail to be swimmable and fishable, this becomes a much less desirable place to live.
Clean water is essential to our way of life and the stormwater utility is the mechanism that localities use to provide the services we need and protect our environment.
Blog post submitted by William J. Johnston, P.E., City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works.