flooding

Albany Street in Brunswick floods during a heavy rain July 2017. The city is proposing a new utility that would collect a fee that officials say will help better fund stormwater management and system upgrades.

City commissioners on Wednesday voted unanimously to assess a new fee on every property in Brunswick to raise money for stormwater management.

The stormwater utility fee will be billed annually and added to the property tax bills of every parcel in the city limits, including tax-exempt properties like schools, churches and government buildings.

The fee is expected to bring in $1.04 million yearly by 2023, according to Garrow Alberson, city engineer.

Single-family residences will pay $47.40 annually this year, regardless of the size of the residence. Commercial and industrial properties will be billed based on their square footage of impervious surface.

Commercial and industrial stormwater utility bills will be based on equivalent residential units, or ERUs. One ERU equals 2,200 square feet of impervious surfaces, which includes roofs, parking lots and other surfaces that do not allow water to seep in.

A rate of $3.95 will be assessed monthly for each ERU. An annual total will be added to property tax bills.

For example, if a commercial shopping center has 44,000 square feet of impervious surface, it will be assessed 20 ERUs each month. At a rate of $3.95, the parcel will be calculated at $79 monthly for an annual total of $948.

City officials have been considering implementing the stormwater utility for several months. It comes as the city grapples with about $17.8 million worth of drainage projects to complete, some of which are urgent.

All of the money collected by the stormwater utility fee will go into an enterprise fund, which can only be used for drainage related costs and expenses. The money could be used for cleaning and maintaining drains and ditches, purchasing new street sweepers or capital improvement projects, among other things. The city engineer has previously said capital projects will still rely heavily on money from special-purpose, local-option sales taxes, but the stormwater utility fee will help.

The stormwater utility also has the potential to help lower Brunswick’s rates on National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) premiums. Currently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses the Community Rating System to give Brunswick a “9” on its scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst.

This rating factors in to NFIP premiums, similar to how a fire department’s ISO rating figures into homeowner’s insurance. NFIP premiums drop 5 percent for every number the Community Rating System gets closer to 1. Having a stormwater utility could help Brunswick lower its Community Rating System score.

During public hearings about the new utility earlier this month, most residents spoke in favor.

In other business, city commissioners also unanimously approved the 2018-2019 millage rate. The rate is set at 13.219, which is the same as last year. Property owners will only see an increase in their tax bill if the assessed value of their property has risen.

City officials are currently waiting on the tax assessor’s office to send final assessed values to them, after which they will send tax bills. Bills will be sent no later than Dec. 20, per state law.

More from this section

For five days last year, Ryan Moore raced a dirt bike through the hills of Mexico from Veracruz to Puerto Escondido. Racing is a passion he discovered later in his life — at age 27, he said — but he admits he doesn’t have as much time for it as he used to.