The Ontario City of Barrie has approved a Stormwater Climate Action Fund to improve its resiliency against climate change, mitigate flooding, protect Lake Simcoe, and, starting in 2023, shift the costs of its stormwater program from property taxes to an equitable user fee.
The changes follow extensive public consultation and meetings on the new fund, which will cover the city’s operating and capital stormwater infrastructure costs, such as manholes, catch basins, storm sewers, stormwater management ponds and creeks. The city has more than $1 billion in stormwater assets and currently operates 95 stormwater management ponds.
A stormwater funding study was completed in 2019 and recommended a new funding model and implementation strategy. A stormwater rate was recommended based on impervious areas, such as concrete, asphalt or rooftops that do not absorb water. The stormwater management costs will be shifted from a tax-based principle to the “heaviest contributors” based on impervious areas, a city staff report states, essentially linking stormwater fees to usage.
According to the report, residential property owners are currently paying 75% of the costs of the current service levels for stormwater, while representing 54% of total impervious areas within the city. Non-residential properties, meanwhile, are paying just 25% of the costs while comprising 46% of impervious areas.
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The imperviousness is measured from aerial photography.
The stormwater charge for each property is calculated by multiplying the number of stormwater billing units assessed to a property by the effective stormwater rate, which will be approved as part of the 2023 budget process.
The report notes that many municipalities are changing the way they fund stormwater and drainage services. To date, 48 stormwater user fees have been implemented in five provinces, with more in the works. So far, the cities are primarily in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
The average single-family dwelling in Barrie currently pays $174 as part of their annual property taxes to fund stormwater. Assuming current service levels are maintained, shifting to a stormwater rate would save households $45 per year.
In a municipal poll, nearly 82% of Barrie residents agreed that stormwater costs should be equitably distributed across the community.