Harford Stormwater Management Fund reduced to 10 percent

While Harford County property owners are set to get some relief, by having to pay 10 percent of a $125 annual stormwater fee, Department of Public Works officials must deal with only having 10 percent of their initially-allocated budget next year.

Harford County Executive David Craig allocated $10.5 million in his annual budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but representatives of public works and the county's budget office told members of the Harford County Council Tuesday they are working with a budget of about $1.3 million next year.

That figure will not even be fully funded by stormwater fees, often referred to as the "rain tax."

Council members held a work session Tuesday to review the Department of Public Works budget for next year.

Robert Tibbs, a member of the citizen Budget Advisory Board, asked during the work session how much the stormwater fee revenue would support the Stormwater Management Fund, a repository for revenues which will fund local projects to cut down on pollutants being washed into the Chesapeake Bay by rain water.

Harford is one of 10 jurisdictions in central Maryland required by the state to charge a stormwater fee to residents, businesses, industry and other property owners.

Kim Spence, chief of Budget and Management Research for the county, said the fee revenue would cover slightly more than $1 million of the operating budget.

"We'll have to support it with general funds," she said.

Spence said general operating funds are also used to shore up the county's solid waste budget.

"The capital budget will probably be nonexistent for FY 2014," she added.

Spence said later $1,065,725 will be covered by stormwater management fee revenues, and the remaining roughly $200,000 by general funds.

Spence, along with Hudson Myers, deputy director for DPW's Highways and Water Resources, said about $3 million in "open" capital projects countywide could be used for stormwater capital projects.

Spence said the $3 million had not been used in previous years' capital budgets.

"It won't be any new money going toward capital projects," she explained. "It's reallocated money."

The members of the county council voted, 6-1, in mid-April to charge county property owners 10 percent of the $125 flat stormwater fee and establish a task force to determine how best to implement the council's heavily-amended stormwater fee bill.

The task force would make its recommendations in November.

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