City proposes stormwater authority

If city officials get their way, residents will have to pay a fee for rainwater running off their properties.

As part of plugging a growing $8 million gap in the city’s budget, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is proposing to create a new “stormwater authority” to bill property owners generating stormwater runoff for the city’s maintenance of a drainage system that must meet state and federal environmental regulations. Currently, that service is paid for by property taxes, meaning tax-exempt property owners, such as Yale, do not pay.

“The advantage of a stormwater billing system is it ties the cost to the generators of stormwater runoff,” DeStefano said in an interview. “If you have a large parking lot and no way of abating runoff, you’ll have to pay for that.”

By billing property owners directly for the service, the mayor said he hopes the city can incentivize environmental responsibility. He said he hopes the fee-based structure of the system will cause more property owners to find ways to absorb water to reduce runoff into the city’s drainage infrastructure.

The project is expected to save the city about $2.4 million, Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11 said. Still, Jones said he is unsure how taxpayers will respond to the new fees.

Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 said the fees will be accompanied by a reduction in property taxes used for the runoff removal service, but whether or not the overall tax rate increases or decreases will depend on numerous other factors.

Smuts said the city wants the authority to be run by a board of directors, but overseen by the Board of Aldermen. No new staff will be required to establish the program, Smuts said.

“The only additional cost will be the tiny cost of mailing out the envelopes with fees,” Smuts said.

While New Haven’s would be the first stormwater authority in Connecticut, DeStefano said the city is in initial discussions with other towns in the area about forming a regional entity.

“We have an opportunity to collaborate and ultimately merge into a water pollution control authority that would provide services regionally and more cost-effectively,” DeStefano said.

Ward 29 Alderman and Board President Carl Goldfield said while he is still waiting for more information from the city, he is supportive of the proposal’s goal of “shifting the burden [of paying for runoff removal] from taxpayers to everyone who discharges stormwater.”

Jones said he also wants to learn more details about the proposal, but that he likes its potential to incentivize property owners to reduce their own runoff. He added that the fiscal impact on Yale is unlikely to be very significant.

The Board of Aldermen, which must approve the authority, will hold a public hearing on the proposal Jan. 20.

Comments

  • yaylie

    A storm gutter tax? Only in New Haven do you even hear of such a crazy idea. Are they going to force people to buy stormwater meters? What’s next? Sewer meters to measure the amount of waste you generate?