Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is proposing a reduction in the stormwater management fee, known derisively as the “rain tax,” by about one-third, for homes, businesses and nonprofits.
“The Council and I have been discussing ways to reduce this fee for some time,” Kamenetz said in a press release. “This has been a collaborative effort, and it allows us to continue to protect the Chesapeake Bay while making the fee more reasonable for homeowners, businesses and nonprofits.”
Kamenetz is also asking Gov. Larry Hogan to advocate for an extension on a 2025 federal compliance date.
The proposed reductions will be introduced at the Council’s legislative session on Feb. 2, discussed at a public work session on Feb. 24, and the bill will be voted on at its March 2 legislative session.
The fees came about from a 2010 federal lawsuit between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, the result of which was the EPA ordered Maryland to reduce runoff water that carries toxins and nutrients into the Bay with measurable results by 2025. The Maryland legislature instituted a mandate under which Maryland’s 10 largest jurisdictions would pay for cleaning up the Bay. Baltimore County established a fee-based structure, which took effect July 1, 2014, to curb phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment pollution into the Bay.
Although fees nonprofits are currently paying were reduced from what was originally proposed, businesses and nonprofits alike feel that the fees affect them disproportionately. Both entities’ fees are based on the amount of impervious surfaces they have, i.e. parking lots. The larger the parking lot, the higher the fee.
“Now that we’re into this a little bit we see that our business are suffering from the amounts of money they have to pay for stormwater management,” Councilwoman Vicki Almond, D-2, said.
The county is able to reduce the fees because of a lesser revenue requirement due to efficiencies achieved in the first year of the program, the press release said.
Under Kamenetz’s proposal, the fee for an individual home would be reduced from $39 to $26, the fee for an attached home from $21 to $14, the fee for a condominium from $32 to $22, the fee for a commercial property from $69 to $46 per 2,000 square feet of impervious surface and the fee for institutional nonprofits from $20 to $14 square feet of impervious surface.
Almond said the Council is discussing Kamenetz’s proposal, but she hopes the county executive’s administration will look for more money in its budget rather than ask for a federal extension, which she acknowledges will be a challenge given the uncertainty in state funding for the county.
“I think we want to study the issue more,” she said. “The Council is certainly talking about it, but I think we need to study it more.”
— Marc Shapiro