Council Considers Stormwater Utility, Reviews Electricity Aggregation Option
Council members are in agreement that something most be done to provide a steady revenue stream for stormwater management.
For the first time in weeks, the prospective Walgreens location on 63rd didn't dominate the village council meeting and instead the council focused on stormwater management Tuesday night.
With elections approaching on March 20, Allison Deitch, a management analyst for Downers Grove, gave a short presentation about electrical aggregation. There will be a referendum on the ballot with the following question:
“Shall the village of Downers Grove have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?”
Electrical aggregation, in the case of Downers Grove, is the process of finding a different supplier for electricity in an effort to lower fees.
Currently, property owners receive a bill from ComEd with two parts: supply and delivery. The bill would still come from ComEd and ComEd would still deliver the power. Service wouldn’t be affected either. Just the supplier would change.
Deitch reviewed the information that has been presented at past council meetings and outlined the steps in the process, should the referendum pass.
Step one is the referendum. Step two is the plan of governance—which requires two public hearings. Step three is the bid process, and step four is the opt-out process.
Customers would have at least a few weeks to opt out, Deitch said.
Next on the agenda was a presentation with recommendations for Downers Grove regarding a stormwater utility.
David Hyder, from Municipal & Financial Services Group, reviewed information previously presented to the council, highlighting the fact that a stormwater utility provided improved equity as property owners would pay according to the amount of “impervious” (impenetrable) land they have, and tax-exempt properties would not be exempt from the utility fee.
A stormwater utility fee would also provide a dedicated revenue stream to fund the stormwater infrastructure and improve the level of service being provided.
Looking at 2013, the current revenues allocated for stormwater management versus the projected cost in 2013 leaves a funding gap of $800,000.
And that’s not taking into consideration the utility study suggested the village provide a higher, more expensive level of service than they currently are.
To get funding where it needs to be, with a utility fee system, Hyder recommends increasing the stormwater feel by 15 percent each year for the next 10 years.
Property taxes would decrease by $1.33 million since the money is being collected through the fees. It’s estimated that a lot without much impervious area would initially pay $4.20 per month, starting in 2013. The fees would increase from there.
Village Manager Dave Fieldman said the village has been working on this issue for nine years. He said that deciding how to fund stormwater management and infrastructure was a policy question resting solely on the council.
He said village staff recommend a commitment to fund the stormwater plan in a sustainable way, but didn’t specifically endorse either implementing a stormwater utility or raising the money through increased property taxes.
One resident noted at the end of the 10 years he’ll be paying more than he does now, even if he would, at this point, be getting a property tax break with the reduced property tax levy.
Commissioner Marilyn Schnell said that in 2003 she was dead set against the idea of a stormwater utility, but the situation has changed.
“The bottom line is, one way or the other, we have to fund this stuff,” she said.
There are unfunded mandates the village has to comply with, and property tax revenues getting redistributed depending on the need of the moment, according to Schnell. So, whereas she was previously opposed to the idea, now it’s something she is much more open to considering.
If you have the utility fee, the money that comes from that is earmarked specifically for stormwater management, Schnell pointed out.
That was one thing the commissioners all agreed on: they must find a solution.
“I think a good thing that’s come out of this is that we’re all aware we have a major problem,” Commissioner Bob Barnett said.
“I think we can all agree we need to fund that gap,” Commissioner Geoff Neustadt said.
“We know we have to do something,” said Commissioner William Waldack.
“Nobody wants to pay for it. Understood,” Mayor Martin Tully said. “But we have a gap. And it is not acceptable to do nothing about it.”
“Is [a stormwater utility] more equitable than property taxes? I think so,” he said. Tully also emphasized that this was not a new stream of revenue needs, but a shift in how the revenue is collected.
Fieldman said this issue would come before the council for a vote at the April 3 or 10 meeting.
Among other things, the council also voted to implement some of the recommendations from the downtown parking study, authorize an agreement with Pace Bus for commuter bus service, and purchase 11 vehicles for the village at $503,996.