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Friday, September 27, 2013

BREAKING: Court rules against #StormwaterProgram, environment and customers will remain the focus of our next steps

Late Thursday, the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled against the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in finding that, among other things, the Sewer District does not have the authority under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 or its Charter to enact and implement the Regional Stormwater Management Program under Title V, or to collect its stormwater fee.

As a result of this ruling, the District is suspending Regional Stormwater Management Program activities and the collection of stormwater fees for the program while the District pursues an appeal of the Court’s ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.

RELATED STORIES:
Sewer District asks Supreme Court to hear case on storm-water fee (The Plain Dealer, Nov. 12, 2013)

21 common customer questions about our #StormwaterProgram, fees, billing, and more

We understand as customers you are going to have questions in the coming days about the program, its work, and fees you have already invested. Let us assure you that we are evaluating next steps and will keep customers informed through all available means as details develop.

As many of our member communities can attest, the work being done is desperately needed in our region. We remain dedicated to protecting our region's health and environment. We believe in the environmental benefits of regional stormwater management and are committed to keeping our Great Lake great.

45 comments:

  1. Communities want to reap the benefits of the program but, no one wants to pay for it.

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    1. It's not about reaping the benefits, it's about the NEORSD system following the law! You mean it's okay to steal our money and then keep it in an escrow account until the courts give them what they want, and yet we cannot deduct those illegal charges from our next payment! It's just a bunch of bull crap!

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    2. We were granted the authority to move forward with the program in 2012, and we began collecting fees in January 2013.

      Now that the program has been suspended, we are in the process of removing the stormwater fee from customers' bills. We are informing customers of the program's status with mailers over the next two weeks, but if customers unknowingly pay their stormwater fees, we are holding them in escrow until the legal process runs its course. If you do see a stormwater charge on your bill, you do not have to pay it. You can and should deduct it from your bill, but all other water/sewer/local charges are due as usual. Read more FAQs.

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    3. I have the fee on the bill that came 9-27 and it will be automatically deducted from my bank account. How do I ensure that the fee does not get deducted too?

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    4. NEORSD... Granted Authority? By a judge who was overturned! More Government making laws without citizens having a say in any of it. Raise our taxes based on aerial photography. I was one who had mine raised which never should have been. The added driveway space... GRAVEL. A added deck, NO run off, with grave underneath. Both PERMEABLE. NEORSD should try cutting spending and live within it's means as the American people do on a daily basis. A with for the American people with stopping you from raising our taxes!

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    5. Looks like NEORSD is screening comments... They don't want anyone to see negative posts against the raising of our taxes. Raising of taxes not by the city or state but by a government department? Thank goodness for this judge and the Constitution!

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    6. Thanks for all your comments. We do indeed review posts prior to them appearing on our blog, just as our comment policy states above the comment box, but that is primarily to prevent spam messages from appearing. All other comments are posted unless they do not adhere to the comment policy.

      A previous blog post explains why the court decided in 2012 that the charge was a fee for service and not a tax. But we are adhering to the latest ruling by the appeals court and will keep customers informed as the appeals process moves forward.

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    7. To the Anonymous customer who asked about automatic deduction, another customer had a similar question on our related post. Here's the question and our recommendation.

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    8. Is there a way to request a refund of the fees that we have paid? I could use that money.

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    9. Thanks for your question. The Sewer District will appeal the Appellate Court decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio. We anticipate that they will rule in our favor. Until then, all stormwater fees collected will be held in an escrow account.

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    10. Let's hope they don't rule in your favor. The simple fact that you state that you already anticipate they will tells most of us all we need to know. Cleveland is a cesspool of government corruption. If you want to clean something - start with the waste in your own department. Bloated salaries, corruption, twisting of the laws to get more fees out of people barely surviving and you say you're helping? Sounds to me like you're pushing obamacare styled "fines" and hoping the Supreme Court will call your little "Storm Water Fee" scheme a tax now so you can keep stealing our money. Pathetic. Let's "anticipate" a private company coming in and taking all your business.

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    11. What percentage was to remain in the home community?

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    12. Twenty-five percent of the residents' stormwater fees was to be made available to their home communities for local stormwater-control projects.

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  2. So what about payments made in previous months?

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    1. A number of stormwater projects—aimed at addressing stream flooding, erosion, and maintenance problems—have already been started and some completed. Those have been or will be paid for. All money that is collected in excess will be put into an escrow account and held until the Supreme Court makes a decision.

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  3. I just received my bill and the Stormwater charge is included. Should I minus that out of my total or am I to pay the SW charge?
    Thanks.

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    1. Thank you for your question. Subtract the stormwater fee from your current charges. All other water, sewer and local charges are due as usual.

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  4. I paid the fee for the year in advance. Will we be getting that money back?

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    1. Thank you for your question. For the time being, all stormwater fees will be held in escrow during the appeal process. We are compiling a list of details and customers' common questions and will post them here and on our website as soon as they are available.

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  5. Does this apply to businesses also? Our company's bill has the charge on it. Can I short pay?

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    1. Yes, the ruling applies to residential and commercial stormwater fees. You do not need to pay the stormwater portion of your current bill, but all other water/sewer charges are due as usual.

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    2. Well, that's exactly what I did and we have received a Delinquent notice. Called & they said it would be handled - got a shut off notice.
      I have called three times and this still has not been handled. If the water gets shut off - we will have bigger issues! What now?

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    3. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please email your name, account number, and property address to AskUs@neorsd.org and we will review your account status with Cleveland Water. No customers should have service interrupted if it is a result of not paying the stormwater charge.

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    4. Thank you - The E-mail is on it's way!

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  6. 1800's typical irish cottages had only one window the british charged them a "sun tax" for the window letting in light now we have" rain tax" next we'll be taxed for exhalling CO2

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    1. We already are taxed for CO2, my friend. They made up this thing they call 'Global Warming' and included flatulence along with it. Even though numerous reputable reports on how Global Warming has been a fraud for years have come out, the politicians have totally ignored the truth and act like facts just don't exist. Typical democrat liberal modus operandi. Vote for politicians who cut the size and scope of government. They aren't democrats and they aren't most republicans. They are TEA PARTY endorsed candidates. Regular people like you and me who are sick of the never ending "fees" and taxes imposed on us from every angle. Taxed Enough Already - That is what the "TEA" stands for - and I agree.

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    2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. The discussion of "unvoted tax" vs. "fee for service" might seem unimportant (because you are correct, it's all money that comes out of our ratepayers pockets), but the court's decision in 2012 was that it is indeed a fee for service to our customers.

      However the court moves forward, we have already identified more than $200 million worth of community stream and stormwater projects that will need to be addressed somehow, either by local communities themselves, a regional program as we had developed and began implementing before the suspension, or a collaboration of some kind. We understand customers' frustration with rising rates, but the longer problems go unaddressed, the more costly for individuals and the region as a whole.

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  7. I wasn't aware of this fee! So how has this dept. helped our community ? I have flooding on my property from storm water run off and have complained for 6 years with no avail. Just another worthless fee to take monies out of our pockets. These fees and taxes are getting ridiculous. CAFR1.com

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    1. Thanks for the questions. The fee began in January 2013, so most customers should have seen it appear at least twice on their quarterly bills before the program was suspended. The stormwater fee was designed to help address regional problems that individual communities might not have been able to handle on their own, but also supplement communities' abilities to respond to stormwater-related maintenance and emergency issues, perhaps like those that had affected you for several years. We will keep customers informed as the program advances in the appeals process.

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  8. Will it say "stormwater fee" on my bill?

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    1. When the program began in January 2013, customers saw a "Stormwater" line item charge on their quarterly NEORSD bills.

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  9. I have a couple of questions: 1) How do I identify the stormwater charge on my bill ? Is that the "Sewage Charge" ? 2) I don't appreciate you keeping my $$ for this in escrow and want it back while this is being challenged ! Do I have to file a lawsuit (Keep listening folks !) to get this money back ASAP ! For over a year my sewage charges have been more than twice my water bill ! This is liberal Crap !!

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    1. NEORSD customers saw a "Stormwater" line item on their quarterly bills since January 2013.

      NEORSD wastewater or sewer fees are separate from local sewer charges. The NEORSD stormwater management fee was a separate fee that addressed regional stream flooding, erosion, and maintenance issues related to stormwater runoff.

      If you have questions about stormwater fees you've paid this year, you can forward them to our Customer Service department at Ask Us.

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  10. I pay 1.4 cents to local (CH) water/sewer per gallon and .755 cents
    per gallon to NEORSD for regional sewer treatment and maintenance.
    That's 2.16 cents a gallon for cold water.
    Why am I paying for Public Radio with my water bill?

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    1. Thanks for your question. Water and sewer charges are two separate investments. The Sewer District does invest in outreach to help customers better understand the work we do and what projects and improvements their rates are funding. That includes select TV and radio advertising because our surveys have shown them to be the most effective and cost-efficient means of reaching such a wide variety of customers.

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    2. So let us get this straight... You need to advertise because you have an out-right MONOPOLY and no one has any choice as to which company will service their sewer line - so it is important for you to over charge from the start, raise rates every year with no end in sight, and create new charges out of thin air as a means of increasing revenue yet again - all without anyone having any say in the matter, yet when you FINALLY get told you can't do something, instead you try to appeal the decision and grease the palms of the next higher court in the hopes to continue your unchecked power grab. I think Ohioans need to push PUCO to strap a nice thick leash around your necks to keep you in line. How convenient for you that PUCO doesn't regulate your niche - just yet anyway.

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    3. Thank you for your comment and questions. Our Board is appointed by local officials, including the mayors and managers of Cleveland and our 61 suburban communities. Their decisions and ours are made with our customers, and therefore their constituents, and our environment in mind.

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  11. If you are allowed to collect this fee again..will we be charged the fee for the months that it was removed from our bill?

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    1. Thanks for your question, Laura. No, you would only be charged moving forward.

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  12. While you're holding my money in "escrow" will you be paying me BACK with interest?, since you NOW have money for services NOT RENDERED? I'm with the poster above. Going to have to speak w/my attorney regarding class action lawsuit for return of funds. I don't need Cleveland Water to mange my money "in" escow or "out." You were overpaid, now, you need to send it back.

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  13. As I understand this, the ruling only suspended the quarterly fee, which for me was about $27 per quarter, but the new rates that went into effect in 2012 which are also based on the whole impervious surface concept remain the same. Is this correct?

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    1. Thanks for your question. The 2012-2016 rate schedule was not based on the stormwater considerations of impervious surfaces. The significant factor in those increases is Project Clean Lake, a 25-year program to better control pollution. The stormwater program did not launch and begin receiving funding until January 2013.

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    2. So the stormwater credit programs only apply to the stormwater fees, in other words you can get a credit of 25% or 50% of the $27 stromwater fee?

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    3. Correct, the stormwater credit program offered a reduction in the stormwater program fee. We do offer other cost-savings programs that may reduce your sewer rate if you qualify. We have the list and resources posted over on our Save page.

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  14. I would like to post a positive comment regarding my experiences with the NEORSD stormwater management program. My home sits at the bend of a large creek, with all water from several relatively new developments in our city being uphill from us coming downhill to this bend. Due to the increase in paved areas uphill from us the flow of the creek increases annually and drives right towards our property. Our suburb isn't going to do anything about it. But, when I contacted the NEORSD they (meaning engineers, not just your run of the mill government workers) came out to my house several times and came up with a plan to help with the erosion problem created. They were already at the point that they had someone from legal come out so that I could sign a document allowing them permission to do some erosion control. Then a couple of weeks later I got the postcard saying everything was on hold due to this lawsuit. Leave it to the communities in NEO to screw up the one government entity that seemed to actually be using our money to help those who have paid into it. The NEORSD was the first government organization I have dealt with that I have actually been impressed.

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