On Thursday, Judge Thomas J. Pokorny issued a final ruling on the Sewer District's regional program to tackle Northeast Ohio’s flooding, erosion, and water quality problems.
The Sewer District will formally implement the Regional Stormwater Management Program in January 2013 and detailed planning for early-stage projects is already underway. The Regional Stormwater Management Program will address flooding, streambank erosion and water quality issues throughout much of Northeast Ohio.
On June 28, 2012, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas J. Pokorny issued his final opinion in the case of Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District vs. Bath Township, Ohio, et al. (CV-10-714945). Download the final opinion.
Following prior recommendations by Judge Pokorny, the Sewer District will make several changes to the Regional Stormwater Management Program; most notably, the Community Cost Share allocation will be increased from 7.5 percent to 25 percent. Member communities can apply for these funds from the Sewer District and use the funds for approved local stormwater-related projects including construction, operation and maintenance of their local stormwater systems; projects that assist communities with EPA requirements; equipment purchases; and projects necessary to mitigate separate sanitary sewer overflow problems.
The Court has agreed to accept the Sewer District’s proposed changes that would assist school districts and independent schools in obtaining the Stormwater Education Credit. The provided curricula will adhere to Ohio State Standards and be available for grades 3, 5, 7 and 10, but schools are not required to use it.
In addition, the Court has adopted the Sewer District’s proposal to credit a portion of costs assumed by non-residential account holders when engaging licensed engineers to complete approved applications for Stormwater Fee credits.
prior rulings reaffirmed the Sewer District’s authority to implement the Regional Stormwater Management Program and that the fees associated with this program are, in fact, fees and not taxes as asserted by the opposition.
The Sewer District filed the initial complaint for declaratory judgment on January 7, 2010, the same day the Sewer District’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to adopt Title V, the section of the Sewer District’s Code of Regulations that details the Regional Stormwater Management Program.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The Sewer District’s Regional Stormwater Management Program will address flooding, erosion and water quality problems throughout its defined service area. In addition, the Sewer District will assume responsibility for millions of dollars of necessary maintenance along streams across the region.
The average homeowner within the Sewer District’s Stormwater Service Area would be charged $5.05 per month, or $60.60 per year, to pay for stormwater-related construction projects and maintenance. The Sewer District has identified more than $220 million of needed construction projects, and detailed planning on some projects has already begun. These stormwater-related projects will provide relief to multiple communities within each watershed.
Additional information about the Regional Stormwater Management Program is available at neorsd.org/stormwater
Dear Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District,ReplyDelete
I received your letter today. Let me clear up a mistaken assumption on your part: I am not your "customer." I do not receive "clean water services" from NEORSD nor do I send sewer water to NEORSD.
According to your letter, and the information on your website, I am being assessed a "fee" even though I am not your customer. My question is, what service or product will you be denying me if I do not pay your fee? After all, if I go to the grocery store, load up a cart of groceries, let the cashier ring them up and then refuse to pay for the groceries, the store won't let me take the groceries home. If I make an appointment for my wife to get her hair done and tell the hairdresser that we have no intention of paying for her services, she won't provide her services. So, again, what service or product will I be denied if I do not pay your fee?
If it's okay with you, I'd like to opt out. Unfortunately, I don't think NEORSD is going to give me that opportunity. If I can't opt out, the least you could do is give me a free rain barrel or something to offset my paying an estimated $15.15 "fee" each quarter.
(Hmmm, maybe I can come up with a similar business plan of my own, send letters to random people calling them customers, charge them a fee, and... Nah! Only the government can get away with that.)
Listen, if this is a federal or state mandated program, be honest about it. Don't call people like me your "customers" when we are not. And don't call it a "fee" when it is nothing more than a stealth tax. It makes those of us who are not your customers feel as if we are getting sewer services from NEORSD, in reverse.
I also do not receive any services from the sewer district. I think that people need to get their neighbors together in areas like yours and mine and demand meetings with our townships, etc., as well as representatives from the sewer district so they can explain to our faces just why we are being ripped off.Delete
Thank you for your comment.Delete
We do hold monthly meetings for customers at our administration building, 3900 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Our next meeting is January 14 if you have questions, and the details are posted at http://www.neorsd.org/stormwater101
The regional stormwater services we provide will include stream maintenance, construction projects, and master planning to address stream flooding and erosion problems across Northeast Ohio. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to learn more about what might be going on in your neighborhood.
Thank you for your comments, Al.ReplyDelete
In terms of the "fee vs. tax" language, after many months in court, the final opinion was that the charge indeed is a fee rather than a tax, and there are several reasons why. They are outlined in Judge Pokorny's opinion he issued last February: http://neorsd.blogspot.com/2012/02/stormwater-court-rules-program-can-move.html The main points are listed on pages 10 and 11 regarding services and how the money will be used. We are providing a regional service to residents (customers) who pay into the program by managing regional problems that cross individual community boundaries.
You do have an ability to offset your fee by means of a fee credit: rain barrels, pervious-surface-area reductions, and more. Residential-property applications are available at http://neorsd.org/stormwater under "Ways to save."
Since Judge Pokorny thinks this is such a great idea. He can pay my share. I do not use storm drains on my property. And the the reason you have other runoff issuses in other areas is due to over development in those areas. Or the system has been overloaded due to development. So go after the developers that caused that. And school credits? If this has to do with storm runoff. Why is there tax dollars going into the school system? The reason this was a fee instead of a tax is because the government knows a tax would not pass. So you slide it through as a fee. I am a local business owner. And when i need to do repairs of any sort. I use my own funds. I cannot just pass the cost on to the customer. And say it is a fee. If i do that i will be out of business. $60+ a year may not seem like a lot of money to Judge Pokorny. But, there are many people out there on a fixed budget or single parent families that cannot afford these "fees" . Enough is enough. Bill H. Berea,OhioReplyDelete
Thanks for commenting, Bill. Your fee vs. tax concerns are very common, and it was an area that got a lot of attention in court. I'll share the same link I offered Al in my response above, one that includes a link to the ruling, along with the arguments on both sides: http://neorsd.blogspot.com/2012/02/stormwater-court-rules-program-can-move.htmlDelete
You're correct that $60 adds up. You do have an ability to offset your fee by means of a fee credit: rain barrels, pervious-surface-area reductions, and more. Residential and commercial property applications are available at http://neorsd.org/stormwater under "Ways to save."
I live in Hudson. I do not now, nor have I ever used your sewer system. I am not your customer. Your service area map on your web site shows me to be in your "service" area yet you render me no service but expect me to pay your bills none the less. My sewage goes to Summit County D.O.E.S. to whom I pay an ever increasing bill to remedy storm water run off. How did we, who don't use your sewers, end up in your sewer district? It certainly isn't because we are in the Cuyahoga River Watershed. If that were the case then most of Akron and much of Portage County would be in your district as well and of course they are not. Neither I nor any other resident of my community has had any input or say into the imposition of this new fee (read tax). I have to give you credit. A bloated, patronage ridden Cuyahoga county goverment agency has found a way to raid the wallets of residents in neighboring counties without any input from them and with very little return. Every single member of the board is from Cuyahoga County and the majority were either appointed by the Mayor of Cleveland or Cuyahoga County Council. And of course as with all government "fees" this one will never end and will never go down. In fact, it is already slated to increase next year. But this will benifit my community you say. OH wow! We get 25% of the money back for our community. The judge had to force that up from 7.5%. The rest goes to Cuyahoga county projects and, of course, "overhead". We are just the cash cow. Martin J. HudsonDelete
Thanks for your comment, Mr. Hudson. I can try to offer a few responses to your concerns.Delete
This is a regional program, so the fee addresses problems that span multiple communities. Some municipalities do have stormwater fees and local programs in place, and those are for local stormwater projects within their borders; our program's investments will be for wider problems that individual communities previously may not have been able to address on their own (flooding and erosion are big ones). The word "regional" is key, and the biggest initial investments will be stream maintenance and master planning, along with some key first-out projects.
As for your references to Cuyahoga County, our Trustees, and your community, the Regional Stormwater Management Program is a program of the NEORSD and is separate and distinct from Cuyahoga County. Five communities in Summit County (Hudson, Macedonia, Northfield Village, Richfield Village, and Sagamore Hills Township) are member communities of NEORSD. These communities are members of a Suburban Council of Governments that selects 3 of the Board's 7 Trustees.
Keep in mind there are steps you can take to reduce your fee, and many residents already have control measures in place that qualify if you complete the appropriate application. You can find the apps at neorsd.org/stormwater under "Ways to save."
I'm wondering if this program is supported by the concept of "regional sustainability" and ICLEI initiatives?
Typically governmental BS. Tax or Fee. The people defending the Fee from being called a Tax are the people being payed by tax. In business, we call these people overhead; in Socialism, we call these people - bureaucrats. And when you question these bureaucrats about the 30 million stolen from the combined sewer and storm-water tunnel project, They are pleased to tell you that was the old regime and they do a much better job. Oh by the way, the tax on the combined sewer project just keeps going up. Lake Erie keeps getting dirtier and the really problem of farm run off in the Northwest OHIO which is actually the cause of the main problem according to the researchers just keeps running on or off depending on how you look at it. What the farmer's Fee (tax) for this problem. Nothing. Keep up the good work , you bureacrats and enjoy your pension that we are funding with our FEES. Just remember if you don't use the service (Storm Water system) the fee is really a tax.ReplyDelete
Thank you for commenting, Mr. Krieger. You are correct that many Lake Erie problems are caused by runoff, including agriculture, and we are working closely with local and state reps/agencies to monitor and recommend ways to address it. It's a huge problem, and we agree that there needs to be action taken.Delete
As for the stormwater system you reference, the system as we manage it is not necessarily storm sewers (a common misunderstanding), but the regional stream network, something all of our properties contribute to in one way or another. Your fee contributes to stormwater projects in your neighborhood and across the region.