The Baltimore County Council voted Monday to cut the county's stormwater fees by one-third after rejecting a proposal to reduce the fees to one penny per year.
Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who pushed for the penny fee, said it's clear that residents dislike the fee — often derided as a "rain tax" —- and business owners say it hampers their ability to grow and hire workers.
"This is our opportunity to put our votes where our mouths are," Crandell said.
But he could only round up one other vote — from fellow Republican Wade Kach of Cockeysville — and his amendment was defeated.
Other council members said they were sticking by a one-third cut to the stormwater fees because the money pays for pollution-control projects that are required under the multistate effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, said a one-penny fee would likely be vetoed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz anyway, meaning there would be no reduction in the fees in the end.
"I don't see how that serves the taxpayers," Quirk said.
Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, said without the fee, stormwater projects would compete with schools and public works projects for limited tax dollars.
"What we would be in effect doing is not building a school or not repaving roads," he said.
Kach didn't buy that argument, saying the county has enough money to cover the cost of stormwater projects — about $22 million annually — from existing funds.
"I don't think we should be overtaxing people," he said.
After the penny proposal was defeated, council members unanimously approved the one-third cut, which was proposed by Kamenetz. With the smaller fees, the county will collect about $8.1 million less per year for stormwater projects, but Kamenetz's staff says there's still enough money to meet the county's cleanup obligations.
The bill approved Monday will reduce the fees for owners of single-family homes from $39 to $26; for owners of townhouses from $21 to $14; and for owners of condominiums from $32 to $22.
Commercial properties will be charged $46 for every 2,000 square feet of impervious surfaces such as rooftops and parking lots — down from $69.