The typical homeowner could pay a utility fee of $60 to $110 to provide funding for maintenance and improvements to the stormwater system in Carlisle borough, should borough council decide to enact that option.
North Carolina-based Raftelis Financial Consultants discussed the rationale behind the potential fee and how it compares to imposing a higher property tax at a meeting Tuesday evening at borough hall.
Tuesday’s public meeting was the latest in a series of meetings designed to gather feedback on the proposed fee and other stormwater issues. Over the summer, Raftelis met with business owners, nonprofit organizations, Cumberland County officials and Carlisle School District.
The borough contracted with Raftelis in March to evaluate stormwater revenue needs in the borough and funding options for system maintenance and improvements. The fee for the study is not to exceed $43,000.
Borough manager Matt Candland said the goal of the study is to develop a program that meets the goals of meeting regulatory compliance, improving water quality and dealing with flood-prone areas.
“The borough has always been in the stormwater business, collecting and channeling water away from the property,” said Keith Readling of Raftelis.
Currently, the borough spends about $300,000 to $400,000 out of the general fund budget on stormwater system management. That means property tax payers are the ones financing stormwater maintenance.
“We’ve been spending about $300,000 to $400,000 a year on stormwater management. That’s mostly been operation and maintenance of the infrastructure. That’s not been building capital projects, which that’s not much money to build much, and not dealing much with water quality,” Readling said.
Raftelis has proposed that about $1.2 million per year needs to be spent on stormwater management program in both the short term and over the next 5-7 years to tackle improvements to the system, flood alleviation and water quality controls.
To continue using property taxes to fund the stormwater system at the recommended levels would require a property tax increase of 25 percent, said Jenn Fitts of Raftelis.
The alternative to raising the taxes would be to enact a stormwater utility fee that would be charged to every property based on the demand it places on the stormwater system, Fitts said.
Unlike property taxes, the fees are assessed on every property in the borough including government buildings, schools, churches and non-profits.
Candland said the nonprofits had expressed concern about the effect of the fees on their budget as they do important work but have slim margins.
“We’re trying to be very mindful of that,” he said.
Readling said the stormwater utility fees are typically based on the amount of impervious surface on a property, which includes roof area of building, paving and outbuildings. This means, for example, that the owner of an acre of wooded land would not pay a stormwater utility fee, but warehouses sitting on an acre would pay the fee according to the size of its hard surface area.
Residents attending the meeting expressed concern about flooding issues that have been exacerbated by various construction projects over the years, including the road diet which raised the level of the roadway, and how those would be addressed in the program.
“Some of the examples that you gave are things that we have on our list of items to do, or some things that we changed recently,” said Mark Malarich, director of public works for the borough.. “One of the first things we’re going to be focusing on is looking at the lowest cost solutions, getting rid of the lowest hanging fruit first.”
Raftelis is expecting to present its final report to the borough council in October. If the borough council adopts a fee structure, those fees would likely not be assessed until late 2018 or early 2019, Candland said.