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Featured, Money & Power

Nobody Should Like This New Rain Tax, Here’s Why

5 Written by: | Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 9:46am

bay_nasa

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay with storm water runoff systems is a noble task, but the so-called “rain tax” that has been implemented to pay for it is easily Maryland’s most despisable fee. And now that the bills are actually coming in, property owners — particularly businesses — are up in arms.

Baltimore County business owners are the most fighting mad at the moment. They’re being charged according to the area of impervious surface on their properties, but those calculations are based on aerial photographs “taken from a fairly high location” from 2011, and all parking lots and roads are assumed to be impervious, whether they are stone or blacktop.

Frustrating, to be sure, but everyone should hate this new tax. Here’s why:

First of all, this storm water fee was dreamed up by state lawmakers, but its implementation is left up to the 10 counties where the tax is levied. That means that different counties are free to charge different amounts; from Frederick County, whose indignant Board of Community Commissioners set it at literally $.01 per property annually regardless of size or type; to Baltimore City, where the fee is assessed quarterly and non-single family properties are charged $18 per 1,050 sq ft of impervious surface.

Secondly, the fee is for the most part theoretically tied (rather logically) to the total area of impervious surface on a property, but most of the counties are exercising their right to charge different types of properties differently. So where a single-family residence may pay one rate, a business may pay another. Though it’s hard to imagine storm water itself making any such distinction.

By the way, seeing as this is ultimately about protecting the bay, you’d think that implementing storm ¬†water management practices on-site might reduce one’s fee, but so far it appears only Harford County has made a provision for that.

 

Leave a Reply

  • Molly

    Are there any stipulations as to HOW the Rain Tax revenue will be dispersed? Is there any oversight to ensure that the revenue will actually be used to help restore the Bay? Or is it just going into a pool of funds that can be spent on various government projects?

    • Erik

      Molly,
      Yes, there is a listed of allowable uses, all having to do with Stormwater restoration. The money stays in a protected fund at the county level and cannot be diverted for other purposes.

  • janjamm

    It would be helpful if background information was presented to explain reason for the fee and the objective of the fee, you know, journalism? Instead of broadly calling the fee “dispisable,” (actually I don’t think that’s a word, you may have meant “despicable”) you might have also discussed the horrible condition of the Chesapeake Bay resulting from storm runoff, something that is truly despicable. When there is nothing alive in the water, and no more drinkable water, your opinion may change. The implementation of the regulation is clearly, embarrassingly messed up, but the intent is important to understand.

    • Robert OBrien

      I’m with you, janjamm. Cleaning up the bay is crucial. That’s what makes the mismanagement of this program especially frustrating.

  • Erik

    Unfortunately, all his piece does is spread more misinformation. A few inaccuracies right off the top:
    - Harford is not the only county that credits Stormwater practices, all of them do. It was required by the state legislation.
    - The state law did Not prescribe a minimum fee in the belief that each local government could best determine its own needs. With one or two exceptions, that has been exactly right,
    - Baltimore County, like all the affected counties, has an appeal provision for the impervious assessment. If an owner thinks their calculation is inaccurate, they can appeal it. It’s exactly why the provision was added.
    - The rates for residential and non-residential properties are virtually all parallel. The one difference is that most counties are assessing the actual coverage of non-residential properties and using broad classes for residential properties. This is largely because of the logistical difficulties of assessing every residential property.



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