A - Town General

Posted on: February 14, 2018

Manager's Message (01/22)

Manager’s Message of the Week

Dawn Francis, Town Manager

With the first stormwater utility billing, (assessed once a year) we are receiving questions about our stormwater department and the services it provides. Here is some information that may be helpful:

I don’t understand why stormwater is such a big deal.

With every rainfall, pollutants on paved ground are carried by runoff to stormwater drains, culverts or ditches and ultimately to Lake Champlain. Pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste contribute significantly to lake pollution. A polluted lake negatively impacts drinking water, property values, the economy and tourism industry, and human and animal health.

The Town owns and operates a stormwater system that is regulated by the federal government. The stormwater department maintains this system, which is a series of culverts, catch basins (the grates in the roadway that collect water), underground pipelines, and treatment structures, and performs upgrades to comply with water quality requirements. Not every property that uses this system pays property taxes, which was how the department was funded prior to adopting a utility.


But why a Stormwater Utility (and Stormwater Billing) now? Couldn’t it wait?

The State of Vermont has mandated the cleanup of Lake Champlain but has left a large portion of the funding for it up to the municipalities. The most equitable way to pay for lake cleanup is to bill through a Stormwater utility, rather than property taxes, because some properties that use the system are property-tax exempt. Under the utility, every property is sent a stormwater invoice, so every property contributes to the upkeep of this system.

So how does the Stormwater billing work in Colchester? 

Every single-family, duplex, triplex, vacant, or undeveloped property in Colchester is being charged the same flat fee: $52.39 – the minimum charge for stormwater. Municipal property tax rates were reduced to help offset the new stormwater bill. While your overall tax bill, which consists of a bill for both Town and School services, may have increased, the municipal tax rate (not the education rate) decreased in this tax year. Commercial, large residential, educational, and institutional properties are charged based on the amount of pavement, parking areas, and buildings on the property. Credits for stormwater management practices may be available (large residential and commercial developments only).

The fee is annual and will be billed in January each year.

How will the funds be used?  

The funds will be used to comply with state and federal regulations and support the management of 53 stormwater ponds, 2,282 pipelines, and 279 outfalls where pipes discharge water into streams and rivers. It will also support street sweeping and water quality testing at sites around the community. These are all managed under a federal permit, with a total department budget of $849,737.

If you have further questions or more details about any of the above you may contact Karen Adams, Technical Services Manager, at 264-5621 or by email at kadams@colchestervt.gov. Or visit www.colchestervt.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=275

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