A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany rain tax details emerge

Written June 6th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
A rain tax, the council's topic inside City Hall, looked hopeless out of place under Monday's clear sky and sunshine. But we know that seasons change.

A rain tax, the council’s topic inside City Hall, looked hopelessly out of place under Monday’s clear sky and sunshine. But we know that seasons change.

Now we have a better idea how much Albany’s coming  rain tax — the official tag is storm water utility fee — will cost each and every household, depending on what the city council later decides. While no decisions have been made, the council spent two hours Monday being briefed on the potential details.

If the council opts for a modest revenue and expense goal for the proposed new storm water utility of $1.75 million a year, a single-family residential customer would be charged a monthly fee of $6.74. Corresponding rate reductions for sewer and water of $4.13 (for a customer using the average of six units of water a month) would bring the storm water utility fee to $2.61 a month.

If, on the other hand, the council adopts a bigger storm water utility program with a revenue goal of $3.45 million in five years, the monthly bill for a single-family residence would be $13.29. The rate reductions (6 percent for sewer and 2 percent for water) would total $4.13, bringing the rain tax total to $9.16 a month.

Under a proposal outlined for the council by utility manager Mark Yeager, residential and non-residential customers all would be charged one base rate to account for static costs of the storm water utility. There also would be a unit charge roughly related to the amount of runoff from properties. Residences would be charged one unit, and non-residential customers like industries, shopping centers and schools, would be charged multiple units based on the size of their impervious surfaces such as parking lots and roofs.

For example, a typical gas station’s total rain tax would be around $19 a month. City Hall would charge itself $58. For an apartment complex, the fee would be around $128. Large retailers would face monthly bills from around $523 to $833. Each Albany high school would be charged around $902 monthly. For utility customers in manufacturing, the rain tax would be  $1,085 to $1,880 a month depending on size.

According to the present plan, the new fees are to be adopted this fall and take effect in March 2017. Revenue targets and fees are based about two-thirds on the needs of the long-neglected storm water system and one-third on the cost of complying with a pending new state storm water discharge permit expected to take effect in September 2016. City administrators have been urging the state Department of Environmental Quality to back off some of the more burdensome provisions of the proposed permit. If that effort fails, they say, the rain tax would have to be higher.

For example, the proposed rate structure was based on inspections and maintenance of 10 percent of the storm water system annually. According to city staff, a draft of the new permit requires that the city inspect and maintain 25 percent of the system per year, which the staff said may require hiring eight or so people. Also, the city now requires special storm water provisions only in construction projects of an acre or more. The proposed permit would require water retention facilities big enough to catch one inch of rain if construction disturbs 5,000 square feet. This would make it impossible or prohibitively expensive to build a house on a small lot.

Rich Kellum, Floyd Collins and other council members again vowed to fight any permit conditions that go beyond federal regulations. Staff members said they, too, had been kicking around ways of challenging excessive conditions. One way is to reject regulations going beyond federal requirements on the grounds they are unfunded mandates, which the state constitution bans.

All this will come to a head this fall, and the council agreed with staff suggestions on various ways of informing the public of the issue and the money involved. In the meantime, a more immediate worry might be whether we’re going to get enough rain this June to save the lawn from premature death. (hh)


14 responses to “Albany rain tax details emerge”

  1. Callie Hanson says:

    This rain tax is ridiculous. Come on, the water/sewer bill is outrageous. I can’t even water a plant let alone a lawn in the summer and my water bill goes up to $160.00 a month to $200.09. Just to have a barely nice yard. We can’t afford any more hikes. Now they want to penalize us when it rains come on. We are on the down side of middle class. Currently my husband and I are able to make $58,000 a year. After payroll taxes, medical, income taxes. Then basic bills, we can’t afford water as it is. Sometimes even at this rate we don’t get to buy groceries. My perscriptions cost over $400 a month. When they make up these charges like $13 a month they think that is nothing. But oh yes, it is something. Then they want to charge small business. That is ignorant; they barely make it now. Why do you want to put them out of business? Soon I am sure we will be getting a sunshine tax. Because it warms things up and ruins the rain tax plan. I think sometimes the people who are on the city council don’t realize that the economy is still not good here. I am glad they make enough money not to fret about their rainwater bill. Let alone how they will pay it next month. Frustrated in Albany…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Now they want to penalize us when it rains come on.”

      No we do not “want” to do this. Because Albany passed the 50K population threshold, we are being mandated to have a Storm water plan in place that is materially more stringent that before. And if we don’t get a reasonable permit from the DEQ, staff’s estimate of the costs as Hasso outlined, could be woefully inadequate…

      • hj.anony1 says:

        Mr. K., thank you. ….for the dose of reality. You can’t change the closed mind but you may be able educate those that are slightly more open.

        True. This is on orders from higher rungs. Thankfully, we won’t be hearing from the blame Obama crowd much longer. It will be blame Clinton or, god forbid, blame Trump. Anytime the latter feels attacked, look out.

      • H. R, Richner says:

        If being “mandated” makes you sick, as it does me, we must find a way to reduce Albany’s population just a little, perhaps by redrawing some maps. If not, we may still find that such mandates will, in time, accomplish the reduction automatically.

        • hj.anony1 says:

          Surely you are joking. If not, get out your crayons and gerrymander away.

  2. Patrick Quinn Sr says:

    A tax is a tax is a tax… I wish I had faith in current city government that it would actually be used for its intended purpose. I am really skeptical that it will be.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Why are you skeptical that money is not being used for it’s stated purpose? The law requires that they do it clearly and appropriately.

      You and every other person on the planet can look at the city budget, and the actual city revenue and expenditures for every department, program and specific line of expense updated DAILY.

      Add to that the fact that the city is audited ANNUALLY, has exceptional audit reports, has won awards for their financial reporting EVERY YEAR for 25 years or more.

      If you are skeptical it’s either that you’re too lazy to look for yourself, of you’re one of those folks who are prepared to lie and assume the worst based on the way you “feel”.

      How very Trump of you.

  3. ean says:

    Do you mean prohibitively expensive to build a house on a large lot? A lot of new subdivision lots are less than 5,000 sf.

  4. tom cordier says:

    I encourage residents go to the City website to read the powerpoint slides that were presented at the work session. Click on City council /see dropdown//click on agenda and council meetings//see list of meetings and ckick on Summary for 6June work session.
    You can see some example fee structures for residential and non-residential properties.

  5. tom cordier says:

    The city will post the info in a few days


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