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Common Council approved moving the fee from property tax bill to water bill in the budget

City of Racine – The City Water Utility and the office of the Mayor want to remind residents that the stormwater fee, which used to be found on the property tax bill, is now located on the water bills. Some City residents will receive their first bill containing the stormwater fee later this week.

Here is a list of questions and answers about the stormwater fee:

What does the stormwater fee pay for?

Stormwater maintenance is designed to prevent runoff pollution from entering bodies of water. Stormwater Utilities were authorized by the State several years ago and the associated fees go towards infrastructure maintenance. Maintenance of stormwater infrastructure includes: repairing stormwater sewers, fixing inlets (catch basins), maintaining stormwater ponds (dry and wet), street sweeping, leaf collection, keeping sediment out of rivers, streams, and lakes. Maintenance of manholes and cleaning sediment from manholes is an activity that is also funded by this fee. Maintaining stormwater in Wisconsin is important and Cities have defined criteria to achieve compliance with rigid and stringent state water quality standards. Maintenance of ditches and/or concrete curb lines are funded by the stormwater fee as they both transport the water to storm sewers, rivers, and the lake.

How is the stormwater fee calculated?

Calculations are performed using aerial photography and land surveys.  The more impervious land that a parcel has, the more stormwater that will be generated from that parcel.  Property with open grass fields will pay less than a property that is paved with concrete. Properties with stormwater ponds will get credits on their fee for cleaning and retaining stormwater on their property for longer periods of time.

Is the Stormwater fee new? I don’t remember paying for this before.

The stormwater fee is not new. Residents used to pay the stormwater fee on their property tax bill (along with other fees, such as the Recycling fee) but the fee was migrated from the property tax bill to the water bill in the last City budget. If you are a city resident who pays a property tax bill, or a business or even a tax-exempt non-profit that that owns property, you typically have received a property tax bill that contains at least the city fees, which would have included the stormwater fee. Again, the stormwater fee no longer appears on the property tax bill, it appears on the Water Utility bill.

Why is the stormwater fee on my water bill?

The Common Council approved moving the stormwater fee from the property tax bill to the water bill in this year’s City budget. Most Cities include the stormwater fee on their water bills. The fee goes towards improving and maintaining the City’s stormwater infrastructure.

How often will I pay this fee?

Formerly this was collected once annually on the property’s tax bill. In 2019, the fee will be divided up into equal installments, and it will be collected 3 times on your quarterly water bill or 9 times on your monthly water bill. In 2020 it will be collected 4 times on your quarterly water bill or 12 times on your monthly water bill.

Has the amount of the fee changed?

Yes.  As adopted in the 2019 budget, for a typical residential, single-family home in the City, the stormwater rate is $123.77 annually. This is a quarterly increase of $5.38 from the previous year.  

What do I do if I think I should not have to pay the fee?

Every land parcel in the City limits is assigned and calculated a fee. Whether it is a vacant lot or a commercial building with a large parking lot.  There exists a formal process to challenge your fee. For example, if you think that installing a rain garden or pond on your property has changed your situation, you should call the Department of Public Works at 262-636-9192.

What if I am a renter and have never paid a stormwater fee before?

Talk to your landlord and review your lease.

I am a renter. Why am I being billed for Stormwater? Do I have to pay it?

If you are a renter you should talk to your landlord.  In previous years the stormwater fee was part of the property tax bill paid for by the property owner. Discuss your responsibilities with your landlord.

I am a landlord. If my tenant is responsible to pay for the water bill shouldn’t they also have to pay for the stormwater fee?

Stormwater has always been collected on the property tax bill until this year. Consult your lease and have a discussion with your tenant and work out a plan of who should pay. Remember, that if you fail to pay the fee it will end up on the property tax bill just like other unpaid water and sewer charges.

I live in a flat and have never paid for stormwater before and now it appears on my water bill. Why?

The Council’s action requires that everyone who gets a water bill should also get a stormwater bill. Talk to the owner of the property about your lease and your responsibilities.

If you have other general questions about the fee please call 262-636-9192.