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County Approves One Cent Fee for State Mandated "Rain Tax"

(5/30) The Frederick Board of County Commissioners today voted to approve a one cent per year fee on all eligible Frederick County properties in order to conform with the "Stormwater Management -Watershed Protection and Restoration Program," known as House Bill 987.

Effective July 2012, the Maryland State Legislature passed House Bill 987, which requires nine counties, including Frederick County, and the City of Baltimore to establish a stormwater utility fee on or before July 1, 2013.

The law requires a stormwater mediation fee, a local watershed protection and restoration fund (i.e. special revenue fund) and a process for appeals, credits and hardship claims.

BOCC President Blaine Young commented, "Our board approved the one cent fee under protest just to put Frederick County in compliance with the state mandate. We donít like it, but the alternative of having the state shut us down by usurping our land use control isnít an option. We are being forced to charge this fee, so we decided to keep it at one cent just to meet the letter of the law. This so called Ďrain taxí is just a political ploy and doesnít even directly affect clean up of the Chesapeake Bay.

"We do wish to extend our appreciation to members of the Frederick County Delegation for their help fighting this fee. We also thank Board Vice President C. Paul Smith and Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources Manager Shannon Moore for leading the charge to inform our citizens of the impact of the legislation. Frederick County was on the legislative forefront in terms of solid research and presentations on this issue.

"The battle isnít over and now many other counties are raising their voices in opposition to this fee. We are hopeful that the Frederick Delegation will once again go to bat for us in fighting to revise or repeal this legislation and to call for other states surrounding the bay to pay their fare share."

Local and state government properties, as well as volunteer fire company properties, are prohibited from being charged the fee by state law. Properties within a municipality also would not be required to pay the fee. Municipalities have their own stormwater requirements, and the county will not duplicate these costs. Agricultural properties and properties owned by not-for-profits are not exempt from the fee.

Funds collected will be set aside to pay for stormwater -related activities, as required by the law. The county is required to comply with Clean Water Act permits. In addition to general permit compliance, there are substantial requirements in the permits to retrofit surfaces in urban areas that do not allow water to percolate, known as untreated impervious areas, with stormwater management facilities.

The county predicts that its next National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit, currently in draft, would cost the county over $112 million to comply. This includes $96 million for stormwater retrofits.

Approximately $487.81 will be collected into the fund in one year, based on collecting one cent from each of the estimated 48,781 eligible properties.

The purpose of the new fee is to provide funding for upgrades to water treatment plants that treat stormwater. The goal of the legislation was to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. Basically, the charge is for any impervious surface that doesnít absorb rainwater such as driveways and sidewalks.

For more information, contact Ms. Moore at 301-600-1413 or via e-mail at smoore@FrederickCountyMD.gov.

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