Stormwater Utility Fee FAQ

Why was the Stormwater Utility Fee created?
The Village of Buffalo Grove has changed the way we cover the cost of owning, maintaining and improving the Stormwater Management System. Instead of property tax revenues, the Village will now use a bi-monthly Stormwater Utility Fee, which will be based on the property type and its proportional use of the system. 

This change is designed to accomplish the following: 
  • Fund the stormwater system as a utility, where properties are charged based on their portion of use  to fund improvements and operating expenses. 
  • Encourage onsite stormwater management and reduction of stormwater runoff. 
  • Provide a predictable and sustainable funding source to maintain and improve the system.
  • Increase overall awareness about the Village’s Stormwater Management System. 
Many communities in the United States have opted for a Stormwater Utility Fee to fund their stormwater programs. Since every property generates runoff and benefits from the infrastructure in place, the utility model represents an equitable method to collect revenue from those who place a higher demand on the stormwater management system. Local communities in Illinois who have adopted stormwater utilities include Downers Grove, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Northbrook and Rolling Meadows.

Why is a Stormwater Utility Fee appropriate?
A stormwater fee is appropriate for the Village for a number of reasons. The fee is:
  • Fair – All properties that contribute runoff to the stormwater system will pay to fund the system, including tax-exempt and properties inhabited by not-for-profits. 
  • Equitable – The amount a property owner pays is based on how much their property type contributes to stormwater runoff. 
  • Transparent – The fees collected are used solely for stormwater activities and  accounted for separately. 
  • Dependable – Provides a dependable revenue stream to provide sufficient revenues for stormwater improvements, and allow for proactive management of the system resulting in the lowest cost over time.
What do the fees fund?
The stormwater fees fund all aspects of the Village Stormwater Management System, including current operating and maintenance expenditures (previously funded via property taxes) and any current or anticipated debt service associated with funding of Capital Projects. It should be noted that the Village has also funded some capital improvements for the Stormwater Management System from General Fund reserves, but the reserves will not be repaid by the stormwater fees.

How are the fees determined?
The base rate is determined using the total parcel square footage of all parcels that contain impervious surfaces such as buildings, driveways and parking lots (182,2087,589 square feet), and the funds required to maintain and update the stormwater system.

The adopted budget for the Stormwater Management System in 2016 is $1,265,876. This includes both an operating budget component ($484,000) and a capital budget component ($781,501).  The base rate is $0.006950 per square foot of lot area.

What is considered an impervious surface?
An impervious surface is an area within a parcel which prevents or significantly impedes the infiltration of stormwater into the soil. Common impervious areas include, but are not limited to, buildings, driveways (including paving, concrete, stone, gravel and dirt), parking lots, paved walkways, pools, patios, tennis and basketball courts, and other similar non-porous areas.

Why is there a focus on impervious areas?
Impervious areas have been determined to be the single most significant factor influencing the volume and rate of runoff generated on a property. The use of impervious area is the industry standard approach to developing stormwater fees.

What is not considered an impervious surface?
Semi-pervious areas within the Village such as gravel, dirt or stone walkways that are not compacted by vehicular traffic are not considered impervious areas.

How does the Village determine how much impervious surface is located on each property?
The impervious area for each parcel in the Village was determined using high resolution aerial photography (photos were taken in the fall of 2014) and Geographical Information System (GIS) measurements. The information was also cross-referenced with existing Cook and Lake County property tax records.

What are the stormwater fees?
The base fee is $.006950 per square feet of parcel area and is calculated as outlined below.
 Tier  Type of Structure  Fee Calculation  Monthly Fee*
Tier 1  Single Family Residence Attached & Detached Base Rate  Base Rate x Median Lot Size (8,771.66 S.F.)  $5.08
Tier 2  Multi-Family  Base Fee x Property Square Footage  $2.07-3.99
 Commercial / Industrial/ Non-Profit  Base Fee x Property Square Footage  $13.39-$808
*Tier 1 fees are constant and apply to all single family residential properties.  Tier 2 fees will vary because of property size and the number of tenants sharing in the cost.  The fee values shown for Tier 2 parcels are for illustrative purposes only.

Who pays the fees?
All parcels within the Village of Buffalo Grove are subject to the stormwater fees.

When did the stormwater utility start?
The stormwater utility became effective on January 1, 2016.  The fee will first appear on bills received in February 2016.

How are the bills sent?
Generally, bills for the stormwater utility fee are billed on a common utility bill and collected along with the Village water utility charges.  In some cases, billing will go directly to the property owner of record.

To whom are the bills sent?
Since all parcels in the Village are subject to the fees, there is a bill for each parcel in the Village. Generally speaking, stormwater bills are sent to existing water bill customers. For those parcels that do not have water service or the occupant is different than the property owner, the bills are sent to the property owner of record..

I live in a condominium and don’t receive a water bill. Will I receive a stormwater bill?
The stormwater fee is billed with the monthly water bill for properties such as condominiums and apartments. The condominium association will be responsible for paying the stormwater bill and collecting the necessary funds from the individual condominium owners.

What if a property owner believes their stormwater fee is not correct?
Once stormwater bills have been sent out and received, a property owner can file an appeal. The property owner will be able to appeal their stormwater bill only for the following reasons:
  • Billing Errors: The bill has been sent to the wrong owner or address.
  • Miscalculation of the Bill: The stormwater bill has been miscalculated.
  • Incorrect Classification of Property: The property has been misclassified for stormwater billing.
Is the Village offering a stormwater credit program?
No, at this time there are no opportunities for stormwater fee credits.

Am I being charged for rain falling on my property?
While the stormwater program is in place to manage the effects of runoff carried by rainwater, the fee is in no way related to the amount of rain that falls. Users are charged a fee for runoff discharged from their property to the Village’s stormwater management system, not the amount of rain falling on their property. Property owners control the level of development (impervious area) on their properties, which directly impacts the runoff characteristics of their site.

Why do I have to pay if I don’t have a drainage problem?
If you own property with impervious areas such as rooftops, sidewalks, driveways, etc., you contribute to stormwater runoff. While you may not have drainage problems on your particular property, runoff generated from your property may be contributing to problems downstream. The approach being taken through the stormwater utility recognizes that everyone contributes to the runoff problem, and everyone will share in the results of the program (improved water quality, reduce flooding, unimpaired access to roads, etc.).

I live in a subdivision with a storm drain that drains into a ditch. Why do I pay a stormwater fee if the Village isn’t collecting the rainwater?
The Village’s stormwater conveyance system includes much more than storm drains. Ditches, curbs, gutters, culverts and open stream channels all make up the Village-wide drainage system. This system conveys stormwater runoff away from structures and sites in a manner that minimizes the potential for flooding and erosion to properties. The Village is responsible for maintaining the entire manmade and natural public conveyance system.

How is the Stormwater Utility Fee different from a tax? 
The Stormwater Utility Fee is not a tax, but rather a user fee. This fee is generated to maintain the stormwater utility system and necessary capital improvements much like the fee that you pay for your water utility or sewer service. Users of these services are charged based on the demand they place on the system. The stormwater that flows off of your property places demand on a vast system of infrastructure which is costly to operate, maintain and improve. Stormwater must be channeled through a system of pipes and other devices before it can be safely discharged into local rivers, streams and lakes. A property’s value does not affect runoff, so property taxes are not the most equitable way to pay for stormwater services. 

Is the Stormwater Utility Fee billed to tax-exempt entities?
Properties within the Village which are tax-exempt such as other taxing bodies, schools and places of worship are assessed stormwater fees. .

Does everyone pay the same rate?
All Property owners pay the same base rate ($.006950 per square foot of parcel size).  The fee is applied through a tiered system which is described above.  Though property owners (Single Family, Multi-Family, and Commercial) ultimately have different bill amounts as determined by their respective tier, the basis of the fee is consistent for all.

Why should stormwater be paid for through a separate fee?
Separating the cost of stormwater improvements from the general tax levy and from the General Fund is becoming an increasingly common approach, because the practice creates an equitable system in which property owners pay based on their corresponding stormwater impact. Further, a utility fosters accountability, as fees are driven by the level of service and system needs and accounted for in a separate enterprise fund. Finally, the utility helps the Village proactively manage the Stormwater Management System and plan for long-term needs with a dependable revenue stream.

What does the Village use as the rate base for the stormwater fee?
After consideration of the three main types of rate bases employed by various utilities, the Village determined to use “impervious surface” as the rate base for Buffalo Grove’s stormwater fee. Impervious surface is defined as any surface that does not allow for the penetration of water, such as driveways, roofs, and sidewalks. It directly correlates with the amount of stormwater runoff a property generates, and therefore a property owner’s impact on the stormwater system. The Village has data on the actual impervious area for each parcel within Buffalo Grove, and establishing fees based on impervious area is generally accepted as an industry best practice.