Stormwater User Fee

2021-2031-Stormwater-Pipe-Condition-Rating.gif

In late 2018, Public Works identified the need to make extensive improvements to the stormwater system because it is beginning to fail.  The Department recommended overcoming this challenge by proposing a fee structure that meets funding needs and is fairer for rate payers.

Since then, Public Works has engaged both the Board of County Commissioners and the community to find a solution that meets the stormwater system's needs and is acceptable to rate payers.

You input is welcomed, so please take a few minutes to provide it below.

What is Stormwater?

When water falls to the earth as rain, snow or ice, most of it seeps into the ground. If the ground is frozen or saturated with water, the excess water flows over land creating stormwater runoff.

Also, rain and melted snow and ice on hard surfaces, as well as roads, buildings, parking lots, and sidewalks, has nowhere to go except flow downhill to a street, storm drain, or nearby creek.

Stormwater runoff is directed into storm drains that flow directly into local streams, rivers, and lakes carrying pollutants from the ground and hard surfaces. These pollutants include oil and grease, fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, trash, and soil. The pollutants degrade the water quality and are harmful to wildlife.

Stormwater runoff also threatens private property, businesses, and streets.

What is Stormwater Management?

Stormwater Management is the protection of private property, commerce, roads, and the environment.

This is accomplished through the maintenance, renewal, and improvement of stormwater infrastructure.

In Kansas City, Kansas, Public Works is responsible for:

  • More than 400 miles of stormwater pipe
  • More than 10,000 stormwater structures, and
  • More than 120 miles of open channel drainage

The City also has more than 600 miles of ditches.

All of this infrastructure is meant to protect life, property, commerce, streets, and the environment.  Infrastructure systems of this magnitude must be constantly and vigilantly maintained, and all of that infrastructure has a finite life.

To ensure stormwater is properly managed, infrastructure needs are supported by a utility fee similar to water and electric utility fees.  This is called the stormwater user fee.

What is the Stormwater User Fee?

Similar to other utility fees like water, electricity, and wastewater, many communities also have a utility fee designed to manage the rainwater that occurs from storms.  This fee supports the maintenance, renewal, and improvement of the stormwater system's various assets like pipes, inlets, bridge culverts, and open channels.

Right now, everyone in Kansas City, Kansas pays a flat $4.50 monthly fee, from single-family homes to big-box retailers and commercial facilities.

In January 2022, the stormwater user fee will increase to $6.00 per month for residential and $14.00 for non-residential properties.  This increase does not meet the system's funding needs.

Why Do We Need to Update the Current Stormwater User Fee?

The current user fee, and the 2021 user fee, do not provide the funding necessary to maintain the City's substantial stormwater system.  The fee is also not fair to all rate payers.

It is no secret that Kansas City, Kansas, like numerous communities throughout the United States, has serious infrastructure challenges. Without changing the way we do business, without making a quick and concerted effort, a majority of our stormwater system – a system that protects life, property, commerce, streets, and the environment will fail by 2031.

See the following animation for a visual representation of stormwater pipe condition from 2021-2031 if the user fee is not updated:

Stormwater Pipe Condition Rating GIF from 2021 to 2031

The animation above shows that a majority of the City's stormwater system will be in a state of failure by 2031 if we do not update the stormwater user fee.

In a practical sense, this means that closures like Hubbard Road, Roe Lane, and 91st Street will become more common, and the stormwater program will not be able to repair them.  This also means that residents and businesses will continue to battle flood issues caused by poorly maintained ditches, undersized pipes, and destabilized creek banks.

The quality of local roads will also decline.  Moisture is the natural enemy of pavement, and the stormwater system is also designed to help get water away from streets.  The longer water remains on streets, the quicker they degrade on both the surface, in terms of potholes, and at the subsurface, in terms of washouts and cave-ins.

Updating the Stormwater Utility fee will also help the City take advantage of cost-saving measures like the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program.  WIFIA is a federal credit program administered by Environmental Protection Agency for eligible water and wastewater infrastructure projects that combines low-interest rates with long-term repayment terms and deferred payments up to five years after a project’s completion.

The Unified Government has been awarded the opportunity to apply for this funding, and it would add extraordinary value to the capital investments the stormwater system needs.  Without an updated stormwater user fee, the Unified Government will not be able to fully leverage or utilize this program.

What is Hard (Impervious) Surface?

In late 2018, Public Works identified the need to make extensive improvements to the stormwater system because it is failing and the Department recommended overcoming this by proposing a fee structure that meets funding needs and is fairer for rate payers by basing the user fee on an individual property’s use of the stormwater system.

The Proposed user fee was based on the amount of hard surface a property has. Hard, or impervious surface, is any surface that does not allow rainwater to absorb naturally into the ground. If rainwater is not absorbed naturally into the ground, it becomes the stormwater that runs off a property and must be managed by the stormwater system. The more hard surface a property has, the more stormwater runoff it generates, and the more demand it places on the stormwater system.

Right now, most properties in Kansas City, Kansas pay a flat $4.50 monthly fee, from single-family homes to big-box retailers and commercial facilities. In January 2022, the user fee will increase to $6.00 per month for residential and $14.00 for non-residential properties.  This increase does not generate the funding needed to support the system's needs.

Basing the user fee on the amount of hard surface a property has helps make the substantial cost of maintaining, renewing, and improving the stormwater system a little fairer for rate payers.

What Will Happen if we Do Not Update the Stormwater User Fee?

If the stormwater user fee is not updated to a structure that meets the system's needs, a majority of the stormwater system will fail by 2031.

Public Works will not be able to provide adequate maintenance, deferred maintenance backlogs will continue to increase, we will miss out on larger grant opportunities, we will not be able to take full advantage of the WIFIA program discussed earlier.  The fund will also be insolvent by 2024.

But even more importantly, the safety of residents, businesses, private property, and the health of our natural environment will decline.

Option 1

The first proposed option for overcoming the City's stormwater challenge is a tiered approach with residential and non-residential categories.

Residential properties would pay a flat fee of $7.50 per month beginning July 1, 2023.  This amount would increase to $7.75 by January 1, 2025.

Non-residential properties are separated into 5 tiers according to the amount of hard surface they have. A non-residential property with 25,000 square feet of hard surface would pay $150 per month, and a non-residential property with 2-million square feet of hard surface would pay $400.00 per month

See the image below for the full rate schedule:
Stormwater-Proposed-Rate-Option-1.png

Option 2

The second proposed option for overcoming the City's stormwater challenge is individually calculated and based on the amount of hard surface a particular property has.  

In this proposal, all properties would pay a rate per 500 ft2, plus a monthly base charge beginning January 1, 2024.  Unlike the previous proposal, this approach does not meet the system's funding needs without an additional $10-million from other sources. The user fee is calculated by dividing the amount of hard surface a property has by 500, multiplying that by the rate per square feet and then adding the monthly base charge.

View the rate schedule image below:
Stormwater-Proposed-Rate-Option-2.png

1,200 ft2 Example Property
To calculate the fee for a property with 1,200 ft2 of hard surface, divide 1,200 by 500 to get 2.4.  2.4 is then multiplied by the 2024 Rate Per 500 ft2 of $0.80 to equal $1.92.  $1.92 is then added to the 2024 Monthly Base Charge of $4.08.  For this property in 2024, the monthly charge would be $6.00.

500,000 ft2 Example Property
To calculate the fee for a property with 500,000 ft2 of hard surface, divide 500,000 by 500 to get 1,000.  1,000 is then multiplied by the 2024 Rate Per 500 ft2 of $0.80 to equal $800.  $1.92 is then added to the 2024 Monthly Base Charge of $4.08.  For this property in 2024, the monthly charge would be $804.08

How do I Find my Rate for Both Options?

To find out what your proposed rate would be under both options, type your address into the map below.  If you do not see the map, or if you're having trouble using it, visit: http://maps.wycokck.org/stormwater.html

Keep in mind that the hard surface data in this map is based on imagery gathering in 2018. If you added something like a shed, driveway, or parking lot between then and now, it will not be reflected in the proposed bill.

Provide Your Input

Stormwater Overview & Background Download

Stormwater can be a complicated topic, so the Public Works team felt it would be helpful to produce a Stormwater Overview Document that tells the story of stormwater over the last three years in an accessible, plainly-written way. It does this by answering several common questions:

  1. What is stormwater?
  2. What is Stormwater Management?
  3. What is the Stormwater User Fee?
  4. Why does the Stormwater User Fee need to be updated?
  5. What will updating the Stormwater User Fee achieve?
  6. What will happen if the Stormwater User Fee is not updated?
  7. What has Public Works done since 2018 to facilitate the update?

Download/View Document