Does Albemarle County have a Storm Water Management crisis that requires a Rain Tax on property owners? We know from the editorial in the January Gazette that Albemarle County contributes a negligible percentage of the pollutants that harm the Chesapeake Bay. Some people may disagree, but Albemarle County residents should not have to pay for problems created by other parts of Virginia.
But the proposed Rain Tax is not about the Chesapeake Bay. In answer to my email, Supervisor Liz Palmer wrote that the Rain Tax is not about the Chesapeake Bay, but about Storm Water Management in Albemarle County. Supervisor Palmer cited the Mechums River. Are our county rivers in trouble? Is the Mechums River in danger?
The Crozet Growth Area has substantial storm water management infrastructure. No silt should be flowing into any creeks or rivers. The Rural Area has Nature to take care of rain water. Fields, streams, and gravel roads suck up excess water.
So, what is this Rain Tax all about? The Board of Supervisors calls the Rain Tax a fee. This is troubling. We all should be concerned about any off-budget revenue and expense. As opposed to an open tax, a fee is obscure, hidden from scrutiny by most property owners and can be increased without due publicity or debate. A Storm Water Management fee creates yet another agency of government with almost no transparency or taxpayer oversight.
For a non-existent problem, the Board of Supervisors wants to impose a Rain Tax on every roof (house, shed, barn, etc.), every road and driveway (VDOT excluded, I guess), and on every parking lot. This would severely hurt churches, schools, small and large businesses, farmers, and all of the rest of us who would like to see government restrict its growth habit.
The Board of Supervisors will be discussing this proposed Rain Tax in February. I suggest to them that if Albemarle County has a Storm Water Management crisis, they should put the problem on the list of Capital Improvements, prioritize it appropriately, and fund it from the regular Capital Improvements budget.