FAQ: Stormwater Management Utility and Fee
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What is the stormwater management utility and fee?
The Town of Hillsborough created a stormwater management utility and fee — effective July 1, 2016 — to comply with expanding state and federal stormwater regulations to reduce stormwater runoff pollution from reaching the Eno River. The regulations are unfunded mandates, which the town previously paid for through collected property taxes. By charging a fee instead of raising taxes, all properties within the town limits now share in the cost to protect our water bodies, including tax-exempt properties, such as schools, churches and government buildings. Fees collected through the utility must be spent on the town’s stormwater program. See the Directory of Current Stormwater Services.
What is the purpose of the Stormwater Management Program?
The Hillsborough Stormwater Management Program’s primary purpose is to reduce or eliminate stormwater runoff pollution from reaching local waterbodies, including the Eno River. Pollution from stormwater runoff causes adverse impacts to aquatic ecosystems, poses human health risks, and can greatly increase the cost of treating drinking water.
As we add impervious surface — such as parking lots and rooftops that are made of materials water does not penetrate — we decrease the amount of stormwater that enters the ground. This increases the amount and velocity of stormwater runoff, which can cause accelerated erosion and downstream flooding. As stormwater flows across impervious surfaces, it picks up various pollutants, including excess nutrients, oil, grease, bacteria and sediment. Polluted stormwater flows down storm drains and ditches where it is discharged — untreated — into local streams, rivers and lakes.
This site’s stormwater and environmental services section includes information on how you can reduce stormwater runoff pollution.
How much is the fee?
The structure for the annual fee is:
- Residential Properties — $75
- Non-residential Properties —
- 0 to 10,000 square feet — $150
- 10,001 to 30,000 square feet — $600
- 30,001 to 100,000 square feet — $1,800
- 100,001 to 200,000 square feet — $4,050
- 200,001 square feet and above — $12,900
Residential properties are charged a flat fee as impervious surface is not significantly different across neighborhoods. Non-residential areas are charged a higher fee because those properties often have higher impervious surface, more traffic, increased activity, bulk storage, and other factors that increase the risk of stormwater pollution. Under the fee structure, apartment complexes are assessed as a commercial or non-residential property. Residential condominiums or townhouses are assessed the residential flat rate as they typically are subdivided into individual parcels. Vacant land is handled on a case-by-case basis. Generally, the town charges no fee for open space; however, undeveloped land could contribute to stormwater runoff through erosion or illegal dumping.
The stormwater management utility fee is assessed on the annual property tax bill that you receive from Orange County in July or August of each year. Orange County is processing fee collection, which is due by Jan. 5 of the following year without added interest.
Are there any discounts available?
Because stormwater runoff is generated from all properties, the fee is assessed to all properties regardless of tax status or profitability.
Town staff are considering a discount for non-residential properties that install engineered stormwater control measures — SCMs — that exceed new development requirements to protect water quality. These control measures are known also as stormwater best management practices or BMPs. In addition, town staff are considering a voluntary assistance program, similar to the program in place for water and sewer bills. See the Water Assistance Program.
Can I appeal or dispute my stormwater management utility fee?
The fee is assessed to all properties regardless of tax status or profitability. However, you may appeal your stormwater management utility fee if you believe one or more of these situations apply to your property:
- Incorrect Ownership — The parcel does not belong to you.
- Incorrect Impervious Surface — There is no impervious surface on the parcel; the impervious surface has been removed; or the impervious surface mapped is located on an adjacent parcel.
- Incorrect Property Designation — The property is designated as non-residential but is actually residential or vice versa.
- Incorrect Tier — A non-residential property is billed at the wrong tier.
An appeal of a disputed bill must be made in writing using the town’s Stormwater Management Utility Fee Appeal Form, available on the town’s website.
How can I learn more?
For more information, contact Stormwater and Environmental Services Manager Terry Hackett by email or by phone at 919-732-1270, ext. 77.