Joined by several county council members, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman signed legislation Monday morning repealing the county's two-year-old stormwater management fee.
The council unanimously approved the repeal legislation on Jan. 20. Joining Glassman in his office for the bill signing were Council President Richard Slutzky and council members Patrick Vincenti, Curtis Beulah and Jim McMahan.
The annual fee, better known by the term "rain tax," has been $12.50 per home or townhouse since the county began collecting it annually on July 1, 2013. Owners of apartment and commercial buildings have been assessed at the rate of 70 cents for each 500 square feet of impervious surface on their properties. Farm properties have been charged at the single dwelling rate.
Under the repeal legislation, which Glassman sponsored, the county will halt collection of the fee at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
Harford enacted the unpopular fee in 2013 because of a 2012 state law requiring the largest counties surrounding the Chesapeake Bay to take a greater responsibility in controlling the discharges of polluting runoff into the watershed. Part of the law required the locals to collect fees from homeowners and commercial property owners to fund stormwater mitigation projects, but the mandate did not specify what the fees should be.
But responses by local governments have been anything but uniform, with some charging fees higher than Harford's but others charging less or none at all.
Municipal governments, including Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace in Harford, have been subject to different and less stringent rules from the state, which also hasn't sat well with leaders of affected counties.
Those and other inconsistencies about the state's stormwater reduction mandates were cited by Glassman when he sent the rain tax repeal legislation to the council shortly after taking office in December.
Last week, he noted the county would not abandon its responsibilities to reduce runoff going into the bay, but would take another approach to funding such initiatives, a point he also made in his December inaugural address.
The county collected just over $1 million from the rain tax in the 2013-14 fiscal year, and the previous county administration budgeted for a similar amount in the current budget. All of the money has been used for personnel; no money was budgeted previously to repair or replace defective infrastructure that handles stormwater.
Cindy Mumby, Glassman's spokesperson, said Friday the county executive intends to use general operating revenue to fund the stormwater program's administration in future budgets and also will include a capital expenditure component in the 2015-16 county budget he submits in mid-April.