In case you lost track of the coming Albany rain tax, here’s a reminder: It takes effect March 1 and will start showing up on the city’s combined water and sewer bills next month.
The city council enacted the storm water utility charge in November 2016 after nearly two years of study and deliberation. The fee is intended to raise money toward maintenance and improvement of the city’s extensive network of drains, pipes, ditches and other facilities that channel rain water from streets and private properties to the Willamette River.
Public Works Directors Jeff Blaine and Chris Bailey reminded the council on Wednesday that the new charge is about to take effect. Based on the experience of Lebanon a few years ago, and despite a publicity and outreach campaign over the last few months, they prepared the council for a surge of customer questions and complaints. The city has six billing cycles for its roughly 18,000 utility accounts, and the first storm water charge will be prorated depending on the cycle.
For most residential utility customers the storm water fee will start at $6.74 a month. To help offset the added cost, the council lowered water rates 2 percent and sewer charges 6 percent. So the net increase for most residences in town will average $2.61, according to the city staff. For the smallest 10 percent of residential properties, the charge will be 50 cents less. For the largest 10 percent it’ll be 50 cents more.
For nonresidential properties, the charge is based largely on the size of surfaces such as parking lots and roofs. The Target Distribution Center in South Albany and the Albany Public Schools are among those facing the biggest increases, between $1,000 and $2,000 more per month.
The city staff envisions the monthly charges to increase in annual steps over the next five years. It will be up to the city council whether and when the rain tax rises, and by how much. (hh)