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Mayor proposing new fee to fund drainage plan; find out how much it could cost you

1 year 9 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, October 06 2022 Oct 6, 2022 October 06, 2022 10:37 AM October 06, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The mayor's office released a detailed proposal Thursday laying out an updated drainage plan that would impose a new fee on residents across East Baton Rouge Parish. 

The Stormwater Utility fee will be applied as a city-parish fee on residents' tax bills, meaning the East Baton Rouge Metro Council will ultimately decide on it, not parish voters. The mayor's office clarified Thursday afternoon that the fee would only affect residents in Baton Rouge and unincorporated areas throughout the parish, not Baker, Central or Zachary. 

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says the plan is necessary to avoid having the federal government take over the parish's flood prevention measures.

The metro council will introduce the proposal on Oct. 12, with a public hearing and council vote set for Oct. 26.  Councilmembers will also host a series of public meeting in the days leading up to the vote.

- Thursday, October 13, 6pm – 7:30pm @ Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd

- Monday, October 17, 6:30pm – 8pm @ Pride-Chaneyville Branch Library, 13600 Port Hudson-Pride Rd.

- Tuesday, October 18, 6:30pm – 8pm @ Charles R. Kelly Community Center, 3535 Riley St.

-  Thursday, October 20, 5:30pm – 7:30pm @ Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library, 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd

- Monday, October 24, 6:30pm – 8pm @ Fairwood Branch Library, 12910 Old Hammond Hwy.

- Tuesday, October 25, 6:30pm – 8pm @ Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek

On Thursday, shortly before a news conference where the mayor was set to discuss the proposal, the parish launched a website where residents can calculate how much it will cost them if approved.

You can find that page by clicking here

Read the full statement from the mayor's office below. 

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the City-Parish Department of Environmental Services presented a proposal today to fund the recently created stormwater utility district for the City of Baton Rouge and unincorporated areas of East Baton Rouge Parish.

This proposal, which is based on detailed analyses of Baton Rouge properties and best practices for stormwater utilities in other states, will deliver an affordable and equitable solution to residents and businesses that helps reduce flood risk, improves water quality, and enhances overall quality of life in the Baton Rouge community. It will also help the City-Parish avoid burdensome federal enforcement actions due to years of underfunded stormwater management activities and projects.

“The quality, quantity, and movement of water within our parish impacts every facet of our daily lives – from the way we navigate our community and the resiliency of our neighborhoods, to our health and quality of life,” said Mayor Broome. “Establishing a dedicated funding source for adequate and consistent stormwater maintenance and improvement throughout East Baton Rouge Parish empowers our community to address chronic litter, water quality, and flood risks while helping to ensure we retain local control of our stormwater system.”

Since the Great Flood of 2016, the City-Parish has been working toward a long-term stormwater management solution involving Baton Rouge’s Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System (MS4). This includes initiatives like the East Baton Rouge Parish Stormwater Master Plan, over $50 million in one-time federal funds allocated to near-term improvements, and coordination with community stakeholders to clean up Baton Rouge rights-of-way and waterways. These efforts have demonstrated both the need and the lack of existing funding to support a more permanent solution.

The full proposal, timeline, frequently asked questions, upcoming meetings, and a tool to view calculated costs per parcel can be found at brla.gov/stormwaterutility.

See also: Stormwater Utility Informational Brochure

City-Parish officials will hold stakeholder and community meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal and answer questions residents may have. The proposal will be introduced at the Metro Council’s Oct. 12 meeting with a public hearing scheduled for the Metro Council’s Oct. 26 meeting.

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, see below.

What is a Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System (MS4)?

Federal and state regulations require large municipalities, like Baton Rouge, to address the amount and type of pollution carried by stormwater runoff that is deposited into local waterways. To comply with requirements established by these regulatory agencies, the City-Parish must develop and implement a stormwater management program that includes pollution prevention measures, treatment and removal techniques, monitoring, use of legal authority, and any appropriate measures needed to control the quality of stormwater discharged within our waterways.

What are the benefits of a stormwater utility fee?

Stormwater utility fees provide an equitable and adequate funding source to regularly improve, inspect, clean, and maintain the parish’s drainage systems and infrastructure. The fee structure enacted by the City-Parish enables a strong and fair correlation between the stormwater runoff a property contributes and the charges the property owner pays.

Establishing a dedicated funding source strengthens government transparency and accountability by defining the expected operational level of our stormwater management program, the compliance requirements that must be met, the capital investments needed for managing the drainage system’s infrastructure, and community initiatives and solutions for the City-Parish.?

Why aren't existing resources for drainage improvement enough?

The City-Parish has a three-year backlog of complex drainage maintenance projects. Meanwhile, the ratio of East Baton Rouge Parish residents to drainage workers is 6,400 to 1. We simply don’t have enough funding or manpower to make any meaningful progress in reducing this backlog while the backlog continues to build. New requests come in at a rate equal to the current weekly service closure rate. Our crews cannot get “ahead” of the work.

The City-Parish has allocated over $50 million in recent federal funding to support near-term drainage improvements, but these are one-time funds, we have many more needs beyond these projects, and our community needs a permanent solution. The stormwater utility fee will fund a long-term drainage maintenance strategy that will improve our Community Rating System scores, reduce flood insurance rates and flood risks, and provide the sustainable solutions our residents deserve.

Funding regular, comprehensive, and adequate stormwater maintenance work will improve Baton Rouge’s overall quality of place by reducing flooding, preventing the overflowing of local waterways, and combatting the chronic litter and pollution in our drainageways.

How is my fee calculated?

Our City-Parish GIS (Geographic Information System) Division surveyed the entire City-Parish service area to collect data on impervious area cover and property boundaries. Using these combined datasets, we were able to programmatically delineate and calculate the impervious area square footage for each property.?

The program is structured so that property owners pay based on how their property is impacting stormwater conditions. There is a strong and fair correlation between the stormwater runoff a property contributes to our environment and the charge a property owner pays.

The annual stormwater user fee will be calculated based on your property’s impervious area square footage and the monthly stormwater rate per Stormwater Billing Unit (BU). One BU is equal to 500 square feet of impervious area. In 2024, the monthly stormwater rate per BU is expected to be $1.36. Therefore, for example, if your property has 1,000 square feet of impervious area, your annual stormwater charge will be calculated as follows:?

· 1,000 square feet of impervious area ÷ 500 sf (BU) = 2.0 BUs?

· 2.0 BUs × $1.36 × 12 months = $32.64 per year

How much money is needed to adequately fund stormwater maintenance?

In 2021, the total program needs $46.2 million to address stormwater operations and maintenance issues throughout the parish.

Based on the monthly stormwater rate and average impervious area per property, the average residential property owner in Baton Rouge will pay around $10 per month. Our hope and expectation is that all property owners see a multiple of this monthly payment in increased property values and quality of life that result from the improvements we will make and the more livable community we are working toward.

How will the funding be spent?

· $40 Million for operations and maintenance

· $3.3 Million for operating reserves

· $1.6 million for cash-financed capital investments

· $1.1 million for billing and remittance fees

· $0.5 million for potential debt write-off

How does this connect with the Stormwater Master Plan?

The Stormwater Master Plan has surveyed waterways throughout East Baton Rouge Parish to determine how water moves through our parish, the status of our stormwater system, maintenance needs, and potential projects to reduce flood risks and improve water quality. This comprehensive study of our parish has given the City-Parish a detailed overview of the maintenance and improvement efforts needed within our stormwater system.

The stormwater utility fee will provide critical funding to address the infrastructure needs identified within the Stormwater Master Plan.

Read more about the Stormwater Master Plan at stormwater.brla.gov.

Why should I pay for rain falling on my property?

Stormwater from private property discharges into the public stormwater system that the City-Parish is legally obligated to maintain. The stormwater utility fee structure ensures property owners are charged a fee based on the runoff discharged from their property to the parish waterways, and not by the total rainfall on their property.

When will I start paying?

Residents will receive their stormwater user charge in 2023. The fee will appear as a line item on the annual property tax bill you receive each year. ?

Will businesses, churches, non-profits, schools, and other governmental entities be billed?

Yes. Businesses, churches, non-profits, schools, and governmental entities contribute to the water quantity and quality within our stormwater system. Stormwater runoff generated from these properties must be controlled and conveyed to protect the entire system.

Will the utility be responsible for maintaining any detention ponds on my property?

No. Retention and/or detention pond maintenance remains the responsibility of the property owner.

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