Can User Fees for Stormwater Funding be in Your Future? What Are the Connections Between Service Needs and Effective Methods for User Fee Adoption?
With the passage and signing of Senate Bill 231 clarity is provided for exceptions under which local governments can raise revenues without a vote of the public. Through court tests, previously such action was limited to Water, Sewer (sanitary), and Solid Waste fees. SB231 clarified the intent of the State to define “sewer” to include the transportation and management of rain water runoff, not just sanitary sewage. Financial resources are stressed as mandates and local initiatives place greater demand on local agencies to improve water quality as well as maintain the infrastructure required to transport stormwater, through appropriate treatment works, to ultimate discharge . Though SB231 opened the door to the generation of revenues to meet these demand, it is important not to rush through a new funding initiative. Adoption of user fees can fund critical infrastructure needs but requires a deliberate process of community engagement, education, financial modeling, and service structure. Successful implementation is based on understanding the legal construction of the bill, the need for rigorous process oversight, and careful planning for services that benefit the public and the environment.
California communities can look across the nation to learn best practices in financial planning for user fee development and implementation. There are pitfalls to avoid; there are rational relationships in holistic water management program integration to incorporate; there are well tested means and methods for working through critical decisions on policy and local authority to achieve the desired outcome. The generation of revenue through fees must address cost-effective capture of runoff, safe transport to avoid or reduce flooding, augmentation of water supplies (through groundwater recharge, for example), and reduction of pollutant discharges mandated through the Clean Water Act.
Ms. Treadway, bringing over 30 years experience, will present processes and methods to build a successful stormwater program and funding analysis in preparation of adoption of user fees to support all or a portion of a community’s stormwater services. Experiences with the process and tools from communities across North America will be shared. The steps in planning are deliberate and engage the community, establish public education and outreach, and evaluate services and benefits for transport of runoff, protection of water quality, and maintenance/rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. Financial policies will be reviewed along with important elements that address legal considerations. Lessons from other communities will be shared to demonstrate real-world experiences in development of policy, successful planning methods, implementation pitfalls, attributes of failures, and guiding principles to follow. Examples will include both large and small agency experiences.
A successful outcome begins with a plan and a goal for delivery of stormwater management services that support overall water management strategies locally. It is critically important to plan a process of engagement, establishing a commitment to transparency to increase public confidence, to include input from all stakeholder groups, and to set forth the priorities for a program of services. Step by step methods will be reviewed.
What Does Failure Look Like?
It is critically important that we learn from the missteps of other agencies. There are a couple of thousand communities who have successfully implemented user fees throughout North America. Hearing about experiences that led to failure is equally important. These experiences help to understand what to avoid and how to plan for success. During the presentation participants can proposed issues facing their community to receive immediate thoughts on strategies, hear experiences of others, and identify how successful strategies can help.
This presentation could be set up for an hour rather than 30 mins.
Elizabeth Treadway is Principal Program Manager for Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. (Wood E&IS) with over 30 years experience in public works operations and management. Her expertise is in stormwater began as the Environmental Services Director for Greensboro NC, an NPDES MS4 Phase I permittee. Over the past 19 years, she has consulted with hundreds of communities through North America on stormwater services, program development, stormwater funding, financial analysis and policy development. She brings direct experience in user-fee funding, with implementation of a stormwater utility in Greensboro, to lead consultant for user-fee program development and implementation for Wood E&IS.