Roseville explains stormwater utility fee

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 15, 2019


ROSEVILLE — With controversy surrounding stormwater utility fees in nearby communities, the city of Roseville is setting the record straight about its own fees that went into effect in January.

Cities such as Roseville are responsible for maintaining sewers to ensure the collection and disposal of rainwater not soaked up by the soil. The stormwater, which is collected in drains in the streets, is transported and purified before being pumped into Lake St. Clair. As of January, residents of the city now pay a fee to ensure this system continues to function.

“This is set up as a utility to cover the charges of local, county and state requirements for the discharge of stormwater,” Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins said. “It’s all this funding can be used for. There are a variety of rules at different levels regarding how water is drained and discharged.”

Other communities are facing legal issues regarding their stormwater utility fees due to a claim by some residents that the charges are not proper user fees, but instead taxes that raise revenue in violation of the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution. Adkins said such concerns do not affect Roseville, as the city ensured they instituted the stormwater utility fee in full accordance of state law.

“This took quite a bit of time to develop,” he said. “There are issues and concerns in other communities, but there is a clear process as to how to form a utility ordinance like this, and we made sure to closely follow that process, including hearing from the public prior to its adoption.”

Adkins said that while no one likes to see additional money going to the city, he wants to assure people that Roseville took all necessary steps so that the system is fair and as affordable as possible.

The city expects the cost to the average residential homeowner to be less than $80 annually.

“The costs are determined by the cubic foot calculations of drainage,” explained Adkins. “There are five broad categories based on the size of the properties and the nature of the properties, such as whether they are a business or residence. These are engineered calculations, not random, and put together under a legal framework put together from formulas used by many other communities.”

Adkins said the new fee was a necessity to institute because the cost of the stormwater system was always something that needed to be paid for, only prior to 2019 the money came from the city’s general fund and made it increasingly difficult for the city to pay for other resources and programs.

“There were no dedicated utility fees before last year, and the city had to pay for this out of the general fund at that time,” he said. “We had no source of funding to pay for these costs. Taking it out of the general fund was not sustainable, so this utility was definitely a necessity.”

While such fees are an issue many communities have to deal with, others such as Eastpointe have an older system and costs are folded in with regular sewer costs on water bills.

“Stormwater repairs are funded out of our major or local street fund depending on which road the relevant piece of the stormwater system is located,” said Eastpointe City Manager Joseph Sobota. “A very small percentage of the city has a dedicated stormwater system. Most of the city has a combined system because it is an old system, so it’s combined with regular sewage. This is all cared for through the sewer fees people see on their water bills.”

Sobota did say that Eastpointe is not entirely exempt from costs for its stormwater-related necessities and said some repairs on stormwater resources are necessary for maintenance and repairs.

“There’s an estimated $2,304,000 of repairs to our stormwater system needed over the next 10 years,” he said. “So we do have to address these issues, but we don’t have to face the same issues of finding funding for it on the same scale as other cities. We plan on addressing these repairs at the same time as road repairs when possible.”

It is possible to take steps to reduce stormwater runoff, and the city of Roseville has several tips to help people manage water runoff and reduce their fees. This includes steps such as planting trees, since leaf canopies serve as a buffer so that rainfall triggers less erosion and provide a landing space for rain drops where they can evaporate. Water is also taken up by roots so less runs off into the environment.

People also are advised to adjust gutters and downspouts so that rainfall is directed into gardens and lawns where the water can be better absorbed into the ground. Materials such as grass clippings, soil and fertilizer should be swept onto lawns, rather than let them clog storm drains. Additionally, walkways and driveways, made of more porous materials such as brick, gravel, or mulch, can help mitigate the water going into the drains.