Albemarle County officials are weighing two alternatives for funding water clean-up measures that are mandated by state government to help save the Chesapeake Bay.
One option would create service districts with varying tax rates that would add to property owners’ real estate tax bills, county water resources manager Greg Harper told the Crozet Community Advisory Committee at its meeting June 17. The other idea is a storm water utility fee that would be based on the amount of a property’s impervious surface.
“Since 2013, the rules are more stringent,” said Harper, “and meeting them is more costly. The state now requires a remediation plan and action.”
County expenses to meet the new requirements are expected to more than double the current annual expenditure on water resource protection, about $1.8 million per year, and reach $4.2 million annually. That raises the question of how to set up a dedicated funding stream to meet the cost.
A citizen advisory committee that has been investigating the choice has recommended a utility fee as the fairer option. Charlottesville and Waynesboro have adopted the fee approach.
Typical impervious surfaces are roofing or asphalt. Gravel driveways are also considered impervious. The greater your surface area, the more you would pay in fees, but it has the advantage of being tied to a parcel’s actual impervious area and not generalized as a service district’s rate would be. Nonprofit organizations in a service district would not be subject to the tax.
With the fee approach, credits could be devised to recognize a property owner’s efforts to reduce run-off, such as rain barrels or landscaping. There would not be a credits option with the service district solution.
Impervious surfaces on a parcel can be mapped through the county’s Geographic Information Services department. “We could quickly figure it out on every property to the square foot,” Harper said.
The committee will make a recommendation to the Supervisors in September. It will hold another meeting July 9 at the County Office Building in Charlottesville to consider public comment received so far. You can respond to a survey on the options online at www.albemarle.org/waterfunding.