Albany is going with the flow and headed for having a rain tax, although the preferred and more accurate term is “storm water utility fee.” The city’s intent to go ahead on this front was made plain at a work session of the city council Monday afternoon.
Among the points emerging from the council’s conversation with staff members and consultants:
¶ A monthly utility fee would be collected on each property to raise money to run the storm drain system and comply with forthcoming state regulations on storm water that will affect Albany for the first time.
¶ The fee likely would be about $4 a month for the average Albany residential lot, proportionately more for larger properties.
¶ It would take 18 to 24 months to go through all the steps necessary before the council could enact the new utility system and fees.
¶ About 60 Oregon cities have long had such fees. Albany has used sewer funds to pay for its storm-related facilities such as drains and pipes, many of which need repairs or replacement.
When the fees are in place, Councilman Floyd Collins thinks sewer rates might not have to go up as fast as now scheduled. The storm water system will have revenue of its own.
Why is this not a “tax” but a “fee,” as the state Supreme Court decided in the 1990s in a Roseburg case? Because, according to consultant Shaun Pigott, it was “controllable and avoidable and was not imposed upon the owner of real property as a direct consequence of ownership.”
That last part is puzzling, since the fee would be added to homeowners’ monthly utility bills. But apparently owners of large parcels, such as supermarkets and industries, could take steps to reduce the amount of rain water reaching storm drains, thus reducing their fees.
The topic will come up again at the council’s work session March 7. (hh)