1. When will the Authority start billing stormwater charges?
Monthly billing for stormwater charges will begin in October 2022.
2. Who will the Authority charge a stormwater charge?
Owners of Developed Property within the City of Williamsport will be charged a stormwater charge.
3. What is a developed property?
A Developed Property is a property that contains impervious surface equal to or greater than 300 square feet.
4. What is impervious area?
Impervious area (or impervious surface) is any surface which inhibits infiltration of rainfall into the soil. This includes pavement (asphalt, concrete, etc.), rooftops, patios, sidewalks, and compacted graveled surfaces such as parking areas and driveways.
5. How do I affect stormwater runoff?
If you have a roof, driveway, parking lot, or other impervious surface on your property, you impact the amount and quality of stormwater that runs off the property. Household tasks such as car washing and the use of fertilizer can also impact stormwater quality. Everyone contributes in some way to the stormwater system, and everyone should play a role in supporting its maintenance and upkeep.
6. How are impervious surfaces determined?
Impervious surfaces are measured from aerial photographs that have been processed to produce scaled images from which accurate measurements can be made. In certain cases, the Authority may also utilize field measurements or data supplied on site plans to augment information available on aerial photography.
7. How much will I be billed for the stormwater charge?
Residential Properties will be billed a flat rate of $10/month. A Residential Property is defined as having less than three residential units on one tax parcel (i.e. a single-family home or duplex). An apartment building with 3 or more units is considered a Non-residential Property for the purposes of stormwater charge billing.
Non-residential Properties will pay a multiple of the Base Unit charge for one ERU ($10/month) based on the impervious surface area of their property, since runoff and pollution increases as the amount of impervious surface area on a property increases. For example, if a property has impervious area equal to 100 ERUs it will be billed a charge of 100 times the Base Unit charge. A Non-residential Property is defined as a Developed Property that does not meet the definition of a Residential Property.
Properties with no current Water or Sewer Bill from the Authority will be charged an additional administration fee of $3.33/month.
8. What is an ERU?
An ERU (equivalent residential unit) is the amount of impervious surface (measured in square feet) on a typical Residential Property. In Williamsport that amount has been calculated to be approximately 2,711 square feet. The ERU was determined by performing detailed measurements of impervious surfaces contained on Residential Properties selected at representative locations across all areas of the City. The resulting data was analyzed, and the average impervious surface value was set as the ERU value.
9. How will Residential Properties be billed?
For those City of Williamsport properties with an existing bill from the Authority, the stormwater charge will appear as a separate line item on your existing bill. For those properties that are not current water or sewer customers, a new stormwater bill will be issued based on current Lycoming County tax parcel information. See Billing Changes FAQs for additional information. https://www.wmwa-wsa.org/billing-changes-faqs
10. How will Non-residential Properties be billed?
Each Non-residential Property has been measured to determine the amount of impervious area on the property. That impervious area will be converted to a quantity of ERUs based on one ERU per 2,711 square feet of impervious area, rounded to the nearest half ERU. Each property will be billed the number of ERUs times the Base Unit charge. The charge will appear on a bill from the Authority, and no property will be billed for less than one ERU. See Billing Changes FAQs for additional information. https://www.wmwa-wsa.org/billing-changes-faqs
11. Can I view details of my stormwater bill online or pay my bill online?
Yes. See Billing Changes FAQs for more information. https://www.wmwa-wsa.org/billing-changes-faqs
12. Does everyone in the City pay the charge, including non-profits?
Yes, everyone who owns Developed Property in the City will pay the charge – homeowners, business owners, schools, churches. Tax-exempt properties are required to pay for other utility charges including electric, water and sewer, and the stormwater charge is no different. Runoff from impervious surfaces from all properties makes its way into the stormwater collection system and receiving streams which need to be managed and maintained by the Authority. Public roads are not considered Developed Property for the purposes of the stormwater program.
13. How did you come up with the cost of the stormwater management charge?
A list of known problems, scheduled improvements, and projected projects to comply with current and future regulatory requirements were used as a basis for preparation of a forecast of stormwater program expenses. A 5-year budget projection, including administrative, operational, and maintenance costs was also developed to establish funding needs. The stormwater system costs were divided by the number of ERUs to come up with the stormwater charge for one ERU.
14. Who is eligible for credits and how do they apply for credits?
Owners of Non-Residential Properties may apply for credits. Owners of Residential Properties are not eligible for the credit program. The credit program will be posted at https://www.wmwa-wsa.org/sites/default/files/2022-08/wsa_stormwater_program_manual.pdf
15. When will stormwater credits for Non-residential Properties go into effect?
Credits will be reflected in the next stormwater invoice issued following approval of the credit application. In general, credit approvals will not be issued retroactively. However, credits will be issued retroactively for credit applications submitted by November 1, 2022 and approved by December 31, 2022.
16. My property has less than 2,711 SF of impervious surface (i.e. 1 ERU). Shouldn’t I pay less than the Base Unit charge?
Although there are variations in the amount of impervious surface between residential parcels and types of structures, the flat rate per parcel has been selected for the following reasons:
- The flat rate structure is easy to explain and administer, requiring minimal cost and effort to implement and oversee compared to other billing options. The Authority’s time, effort, and revenues are best utilized in the operation and maintenance of the stormwater system, and keeping administrative efforts to a minimum is a great way to accomplish this.
- The Authority would need to invest a significant amount of money and time to collect the additional impervious data from the geographical information system (GIS) in order to bill each residential customer for its exact amount of impervious surface. The resulting changes would likely be so small that at this time it is not recommended to individually calculate the rates for residential parcels. Approximately 2/3 of stormwater utilities in Pennsylvania charge a flat rate for residential properties.
17. There are no storm sewers on or near my property. Why should I pay a charge?
All properties produce stormwater runoff that must be managed. Even if your property has never flooded and there are no nearby storm sewers, the stormwater that flows off of your property must be managed by the Authority so that it does not contribute to pollution and flooding downstream. This also applies to cases in which the majority of stormwater is managed onsite; property owners should contribute for services provided by the Authority that are beyond their property lines, such as regulatory permit compliance, municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) maintenance, and stormwater infrastructure improvements throughout the City. Stormwater management is a community-wide service, and the costs should be funded by all owners of developed property in a fair and equitable manner.
18. Why will the Authority be charging me for rain?
Residents and businesses are not being charged for rain. The stormwater management charge will fund a stormwater management program to help reduce the pollution associated with stormwater runoff from reaching our local waterways, maintain the current stormwater drainage system, and address localized flooding concerns. This issue is driven primarily by increases in impervious surfaces, creating additional run-off into aging infrastructure that was not designed for the increase in flows.
19. Will I still be charged even if it doesn’t rain for a long time?
Yes, the pollutant potential in stormwater runoff is actually much greater when it has not rained in a long time because pollutants can build up on all impervious surfaces. In any storm, the initial runoff, or first flush, is the most contaminated. In addition to costs incurred to reduce pollution, maintenance and improvement of stormwater facilities is an on-going task, whether it rains or not.
20. Isn’t this charge really just another tax?
No. Some properties are exempt from taxes, but all developed properties contribute stormwater runoff and should pay the stormwater charge. Furthermore, the revenues received under this program can only be used for stormwater management and cannot be redirected for other uses.
21. Why not just include the stormwater program costs in our property taxes?
Although property taxes are an effective way to raise revenues, creating a dedicated funding mechanism through an Authority is often the best way to guarantee those revenues are used for the tasks at hand. A dedicated stormwater charge has the advantage of assessing costs based on the amount of impervious surface on a given property, which is a more fair and equitable way of raising revenues to pay for stormwater management than a tax-based system. All properties, regardless of tax status, will be charged based on the amount each property contributes to stormwater runoff (i.e. non-taxable properties will pay their fair share).
The Authority is required to reduce the volume and improve the quality of stormwater that flows into streams and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. It will be difficult and expensive for the Authority to accomplish this objective. An advantage of a rate-based system is that we can offer credits to the business community to reduce the amount of stormwater that leave their sites. The Authority may be credited with such reductions, assisting us in meeting the requirements imposed on the community by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). A credit to incentivize these “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) is not possible under a tax-based system.
22. There is no separate charge/dedicated fund for police, fire, roads, etc. Why do we need it for stormwater?
Those services (police, fire, roads) are general services that the City provides. Stormwater is evolving to be a true utility, just like sewer, water and electricity, because of the regulatory requirements and the amount of infrastructure (pipes, channels, catch basins, etc.) that the Authority needs to operate and maintain. These utilities have separate charges in order to link the charge to the services provided. For example, the more water you use, the higher your water bill is. The best way of estimating the stormwater charge is to use impervious area (rooftops, driveways, etc.), because runoff from each property depends mainly on the amount of impervious area.
23. Hasn’t the City always had a stormwater system? Nothing has changed on my property. Why will I be charged now when I haven’t been in the past?
Yes, the City has had a stormwater system for a long time. However, new and forthcoming federal regulations require a comprehensive stormwater quality and management program. The stormwater management charge provides the Authority funding necessary to meet the responsibilities of managing the stormwater system more closely, identifying and eliminating illegal discharges, providing public education, and other regulatory requirements. It will also allow for increased inspection and maintenance of aging infrastructure and the ability to rehabilitate/replace infrastructure that’s reached the end of its useful life.
24. Where does the money collected from the stormwater charge go?
All stormwater charges and interest generated by stormwater charges will be accounted for separately from all other Authority revenues, and will be used solely for the operation, maintenance, and management of the stormwater system. The charge will fund many initiatives required by the stormwater program, including:
- Maintaining and Installing Stormwater Infrastructure – Hundreds of miles of piping and other system components make up the storm drainage system that protects Williamsport from localized flooding and makes the roads drivable during storms. Improvements to better control localized flooding are needed in many areas of the City.
- Education – The best way to protect stormwater quality and stop pollution is to educate our citizens. We make changes in our behaviors when we learn about the negative consequences they create.
- Protection of the Environment/Regulatory Compliance – Development and other human interactions with the environment increase the amount of stormwater runoff which is contaminated and carries pollutants into our surface waters. State and federal regulations require these issues to be addressed by implementing BMPs, and efforts to reduce stormwater pollution, stop illegal dumping, clean up our watershed and restore local streams benefit everyone.
- Mapping the System – In order to effectively maintain the storm drainage system, our Geographic Information System (GIS) staff continues to work regularly to map all of Williamsport’s outfalls, drains, ditches, pipes, and other system components while assessing the stability/safety of the existing infrastructure and monitoring for illicit discharges.
25. Does the stormwater charge help pay for the levee system that protects the City from river flooding?
No. The scope of the stormwater program does not include operation and maintenance of the levee system and associated pump stations.
26. How is unoccupied property treated?
The stormwater charge applies whether the property is occupied or not. Why? Because stormwater runoff happens regardless of occupancy, and the Authority is tasked with managing all flows. Fair and equitable treatment requires consistency in charges.
27. How is undeveloped property treated?
Undeveloped property is defined as real property with less than 300 square feet of impervious area. Undeveloped property will not be issued a stormwater charge.
28. How is billing for new properties initiated?
Most of the time, properties undergoing initial development will begin paying the stormwater charge when a certificate of occupancy is issued or water and/or sewer service is initiated. New Residential Properties will be billed a flat rate. New Non-residential Properties will be charged based on the amount of impervious area reported as required on the site plan which must be reviewed and approved by the Authority. If a certificate of occupancy is not issued within three years of plan approval, billing of a stormwater management charge for the property will commence.
29. Who should I contact with specific questions about how my non-residential stormwater bill was calculated?
Please contact our Engineering Department during our normal business hours (Monday through Friday – 8:00 AM until 4:30 PM) at (570) 323-6148.