City of Kitchener continues to investigate options for implementing new stormwater management funding
KITCHENER At a special meeting of the finance and corporate services committee this afternoon, Kitchener City Council continued the discussion regarding the stormwater management user-fee rate schedule and implementation plan tabled at last week’s regularly scheduled meeting. The proposed fee schedule and implementation plan will ensure sustainable funding to cover the cost of stormwater management and environmental protection in the city.
After hearing from a number of delegations, the committee has asked staff to come back to the June 7 finance and corporate services meeting with more information on several areas as follows:
· That places of worship and charities be given grants of 100% indefinitely under the condition that any money that would have been spent to pay the stormwater rate be used for education purposes and on-site stormwater management activities.
· That through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) the city appeal to the province to address the issue of the conflicting legislation between the Municipal Act and the Education Act over the city’s authority to charge the school boards for stormwater management. The committee suggested that the city not exempt the school boards but that payment for stormwater management is not expected until the issue is resolved.
· That a credit system be put in place for non-residential properties for 2012 and be retroactive to January 1, 2011 when the stormwater rate comes into effect.
· That staff investigate the opportunities for a residential credit system to be put in place for 2013.
· That staff look at what impact reducing the recommended level of funding of $13M annually to $10M annually would have on both stormwater activities, capital projects as well as the proposed stormwater rates.
· That staff consider a phased implementation over two or three years to implement both the increase in funding and the switch from the tax levy to a user fee.
· That a fourth category for residential properties be investigated.
The stormwater rate system was approved in principle by city council in January. The tiered flat fee rate schedule would see the cost of stormwater management transferred from tax-based funding to a fee that will be applied to residents’ water bills beginning January 1, 2011. The stormwater rate will apply to all properties, including those that are tax-exempt.
The new stormwater rate would mean that stormwater service would no longer be funded through property taxes, but instead becomes its own separately billed utility, like gas and hydro. The transfer to this new funding model will help address the infrastructure deficit and ensure a sustainable level of service that allows for greater flexibility and adaptability to address regulatory changes, climate change impacts, etc.
“The proposed rate means we can bring stormwater management up to a sustainable level of service to meet provincial and federal environmental regulations,” says Grant Murphy, director of engineering for the City of Kitchener. “It will also allow us to advance the clean-up of Victoria Park Lake to meet the community’s expectations and make improvements to the stormwater management system.”
The move to the funding model dedicates dollars specifically to stormwater management, which has been consistently underfunded through the tax base. While this approach to funding stormwater management program is a relatively new concept in Canada, it has been successfully implemented in hundreds of cities throughout North America.
A series of rate tiers has been established calculated based on property type and size to account for the varying degrees different sized properties use the system.
Properties with a high percentage of impervious surfaces -- like buildings, driveways and parking lots typically create a lot of run-off because these surfaces do not allow water to absorb into the earth. As a result, industrial and commercial properties will pay higher rates than residential properties because they generally contribute more run-off and pollutants to the stormwater system.
The rate was calculated to support the proposed 10-year capital and operating forecast for stormwater programming, based on attaining a sustainable level of service that meets environmental regulations.
Stormwater management involves controlling the quantity and quality of runoff resulting from rainfall or snowmelt events. The city’s stormwater management system includes storm sewers, watercourses, drains/ditches, culverts, bridges, swales, catch basins, inlets, outfalls, ponds and other water quality treatment devices.
Maintaining existing facilities is a large part of the stormwater budget. This vital task includes street cleaning; inspection and maintenance of ponds; inspection, cleaning, and repair of catchbasins, manholes, pipes, outfalls, ditches, channels, culverts; and other activities across Kitchener.