Oct 02, 2006

Storm Water Utility Would Cost Average Fond du Lac Property Owner $53

Most communities are in the same boat when it comes to storm-water issues, according to Fond du Lac, Wis., city officials.
Fond du Lac's City Council met last week to study a storm-water utility and see what has worked in surrounding cities. A utility would cost the average property owner $53.36 per year, said consultant Jim Bachhuber of Earth Tech.
According to a report in the Fond du Lac Reporter, new federal mandates require communities to reduce storm-water pollutants by 20% by 2008 and another 20% by 2013. The unfunded mandates mean that federal and state governments won't provide financial assistance.
If Fond du Lac does not implement a storm-water utility, it must pass costs to property taxes. However, city officials cannot raise the property tax levy next year due to limits, said City Manager Tom Herre.
Some property owners also would find a utility to be more affordable. According to City of Fond du Lac documents, the average homeowner would spend $101.45 per year if the city passed expenses on to taxes. The average property owner would spend almost $50 less under a utility.
A utility system would charge property owners in accordance with the amount of their land's impervious areas (areas that do not absorb water), said Richard Goding, city engineer.
Councilman Jim Sabel said the City Council needs more information to make a decision. City officials also should pressure politicians to alleviate financial burdens on Fond du Lac residents, he added. Radium requirements have already stretched the city's resources, Sabel pointed out.
"(The taxpayers) are upset with this," he said. "They can't afford this. Our plates are full. The stress is squeezing."
Councilman Jim Nintzel expressed concern that lower-income groups might not have enough income to afford a utility. Some people, like the elderly and the needy, already struggle to pay their water bills. He also requested information on how costs have affected businesses in other communities.
Fond du Lac's business environment shouldn't suffer if city government starts a storm-water utility because most other Wisconsin communities have utilities, said Bachhuber. Of 30 cities with populations over 10,000, 17 have a utility. Six cities are considering a utility, and seven have passed costs to property tax levies.
City Council will consider a storm-water utility at its future meetings.