Credits for reducing storm runoff in Mt. Lebanon under review
The first bills for Mt. Lebanon's stormwater utility fee will go out in January, but the board of commissioners wants to fix a storm of ambiguities in the system property owners use to get credits for reducing their runoff.
The commission approved the new $8-per-month fee by a 3-2 vote Monday, with Dan Miller and Joe DeIuliis dissenting.
Single-family homes, townhouses and duplexes will pay the flat fee of $8 per month per unit, collected in January, May and September.
All other developed properties will have their runoff-producing surfaces, like roofs and pavement, measured in 2,400-square-foot "equivalent residential units" and multiplied by the $8 fee. Because it's a fee, it would be applied to tax-exempt properties such as schools and churches, officials said.
Money from the fees will go toward operating, repairing and expanding the municipality's storm sewers, drains, curbs and gutters. But the commissioners emphasized that the fee and its accompanying policies for offering discounts remain are yet to be settled.
"We're going to learn as we go," said Commissioner Dave Brumfield. "With the tweaking we're going to do, it's going to get better all the time."
Though residents earlier complained that the whole system amounted to a "rain tax," most of the questions and concerns Monday centered on the credits that residents and property owners could apply for to reduce their bills.
Homeowners could buy rain barrels for a one-time credit or add stormwater retention systems for a continuing credit of up to 50 percent.
The credits available to schools -- which would include the Mt. Lebanon School District, the Keystone Oaks high school and middle school complex, Seton-LaSalle High School and numerous parochial schools -- are ambiguous, Miller said.
One part of the policy said schools could apply for up to a 20 percent annual credit on their stormwater bills by providing state and federally approved education to students on "water quality." But municipal engineer Dan Deiseroth said the total credits for all schools would be capped at what the municipality would pay to provide the educational materials -- about $2,000 in the next year, he said.
Miller said the commission needed to clarify that in the "manual" of available credits, and might need to set dates for when schools can apply for the credits so there's not a mad rush for a piece of the $2,000.
Resident Bill Lewis said the commission could make the stormwater fee more fair if it drops the system of credits altogether. By offering the schools discounts as "educational" credits, the municipality risked excluding home-schooled students, he said.
The municipality also needs to clarify whether the 50 percent credit available to homeowners for reducing their "peak flow" with features such as rain gardens or green roofs is a one-time credit or an annual one, Miller said.
Since the credit manual is an appendix to the ordinance establishing the fee, it could be amended later without reopening the whole ordinance to revision, public hearings and votes, Brumfield said.
Municipal manager Steve Feller said another review of the credit policy will be scheduled for a later public meeting.