Stormwater Utility Frequently Asked Questions
There are many questions that may arise regarding the Stormwater Utility. Here are the most common questions asked by residents. You can download and print the more FAQs.
How many residences do stormwater issues affect?
Every home and business is affected by stormwater in some manner, because each developed parcel generates stormwater runoff. When certain roads are flooded, it becomes difficult or impossible to reach areas of the City. When the City’s emergency resources are tasked with evacuating people that cannot get out of an area on their own, those services are not available for other emergencies. We are one community and we need to work together to address stormwater that comes from every corner of the City.
Why not increase property taxes? / Why do we need funding?
The City is statutorily limited on how much property taxes can be increased each year. It will take millions of dollars to tackle needed stormwater improvements and to maintain the system’s future needs. In order to make these improvements without the Stormwater Utility fees, the City will need to either cut other services or add a significant amount of debt service, which is also limited by Statute.
It should also be noted that by limiting our overall debt liability, the City would receive a more favorable review on our debt rating, which will save money by reducing interest rates when we borrow. Borrowing for stormwater improvements will reduce the resources available for other improvements such as street repairs, emergency equipment purchases, and repairing or replacing aging City buildings.
Funds collected by a Stormwater Utility will be dedicated exclusively to stormwater operations and improvements, and cannot be used for other general expenses unrelated to stormwater, such as police squads, building repairs, or road patching.
What would the money be spent on?
Currently the City has several projects anticipated for removal or replacement however a long-range capital plan doesn't exist. It is recommended that a plan be developed of what projects and priorities the City would spend the monies on so there was a "road map" to help ensure the funds will be used appropriately to address needs.
Some area of focus would be to leverage any grant monies, if possible, to stretch the capability to do improvements. Another direction would be to focus on preventative and maintenance activities to reduce the large capital expenditures and extend the life of the infrastructure as far as possible.
Key areas for costs:
- Capital projects
How much money does the City need?
Currently, we have not done a detailed assessment city-wide on the actual project need or have set up a capital improvement / annual maintenance program. The following example is similar to what a community could expect without an MS4 permit to make improvements and perform preventative maintenance.
- Annually (stormwater facilities) - Clean, maintain, mowing and make repairs annually: $35,000
- 4-year rotational program - Clean storm inlets and structures, including annual ditch cleaning: $35,000
- Annual emergency repair or replacement of pipes, culverts, inlets, erosion, rip rap (equivalent to 12 structures and 1,000 feet of small diameter pipe): $100,000
- The City has averaged $100,000 on capital street or specific stormwater projects annually in the past 10 years.
By adding up all these costs it is recommended at a minimum the need is estimated at $270,000 annually. Capital project costs are larger and can be added to the annual estimate for the activities above. Examples costs for capital type projects are:
- Fireman's Park culvert removal: $715,000
- Half mile of creek channel dredging: $250,000
- 1-acre pond construction: $360,000
The Utility is expected to generate approximately between $200,000 and $225,000 annually depending on number of properties at given time and credits issued.
What control and accountability is being set up?
The Stormwater Utility will have a governing body created to oversee policies and approve capital priorities and projects, similar to a Water & Light Commission. The City will not require new staff to manage the Stormwater Utility; those duties will be allocated to current staff.
Is the Stormwater Utility 'plan B" after the Transportation Utility idea was dropped?
- In October 2020, the Council adopted a goal to “Develop & Propose [a] Storm Water Utility”
- The Committee of the Whole discussed establishing a stormwater utility on August 18, 2020 and November 2, 2020
- On 1/5/21 the COW discussed the option of choosing either a Stormwater Utility or Transportation Utility (for the first time ever)
- On 1/19/21 the COW discussed a transportation utility and how this would shift the normal road spending to stormwater funding, addressing both problems.
How will the utility be run?
The elected City Council will provide oversight for the operations and maintenance of the stormwater utility, establishing project priorities and directing funds in the most beneficial way. Some of these funds will provide materials and structures to be used by Public Works crews maintaining the stormwater system, while other tasks and larger projects will be awarded to contractors by a competitive bid process. At this point there are no plans to hire additional staff, although that could be an option in the future if hiring staff directly would reduce the overall cost of maintaining and operating the stormwater system.
Even though there are several protections built into the Utility Ordinance right now, couldn't that change in 2 years?
The Council has already placed an Ordinance amendment on the Agenda for Monday April 4th that would require 5 out of 6 Alders to approve any changes to the Ordinance, so the Ordinance can only change if a supermajority of your elected officials approve it.
For additional FAQs, download the full list.
We are one community, and we need to work together.