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Janesville likely to reduce stormwater utility fees

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 2, 2011
— And now for something completely different.

The Janesville City Council is expected to approve reducing a fee as part of the 2012 budget.


The stormwater utility fee would decrease 5.1 percent for the average residential customer, from $10.59 per quarter to $10.05.


That’s a drop of only $2.16 a year for the average residence, but large businesses would save more.


The utility often hits commercial properties harder because businesses tend to have more impervious surfaces.


Stormwater fees and are based on ERUs—“Equivalent Runoff Units.” Each ERU equals 3,200 square feet of impervious surface area, such as rooftops, driveways, patios and parking lots.


The Janesville Mall, for example, has 576 ERUs. Its stormwater cost will decrease from $6,099 in 2011 to $5,788 in 2012, a savings of $311. Woodman’s Market will save $130.


City Manager Eric Levitt said the stormwater utility reduction would be one way to help businesses, which on average saw a 27 percent increase in property values in the recent city revaluation.


“With all these other impacts on business, we’re trying to keep the stormwater taxes and fees constant,” Levitt said.


The stormwater utility was created in 2003, when the council saw a user fee as a way to raise money to manage stormwater. The state and federal governments continue to more strictly regulate stormwater that flows into waterways, costing the city more money.


The stormwater fee is included on quarterly utility bills, and the city uses the money to pay for greenbelt maintenance and leaf collection, for example. That helps keep sediment from flowing into waterways.


Costs for the entire stormwater system were shifted to the utility from property taxes, as well. The system includes 161 miles of storm sewers, detention/retention basins and greenbelts.


Levitt said he was concerned the utility fee has increased every year. One of the 2012 budget goals was to at least keep the fee flat, so staff reviewed proposed capital projects related to stormwater improvements that tend to drive fees.


“We looked at those issues in order to either drive fees down or at a minimum not have them go up,” Levitt said.


Staff scaled back some projects. In other cases, the city already had borrowed for some projects that weren’t completed, so the city opted to complete those projects before borrowing more money for others.



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