Frequently Asked Questions
The following frequently asked questions are provided for informational purposes to help educate the SW Utility customers. The information is based on the more detailed information contained in the SW Utility Ordinance, SW Utility Rate Resolution and the SW Utility Credit Manual as well as other supporting documents. Customers can download these documents from the City’s website and review them in detail, if desired.
General Stormwater Management Questions
What is storm water runoff?
Storm water runoff is water that flows over and across yards, streets, buildings, parking lots, and other surfaces when it rains. Storm water runoff flows off of properties and into street gutters, drainage ditches, storm sewers, and other conveyance systems that discharge into our marshes and rivers.
Why is storm water runoff a problem?
Excessive storm water runoff causes flooding, drainage system malfunction, adverse impacts to local waterways and water quality problems. Heavy rains flood streets and yards and can result in property damage. Storm water runoff also picks up pollutants and debris from streets, parking lots, yards, gravel parking areas, and other surfaces and carries them into local waterways. The SWU will provide a fair, equitable, and stable source of funding for the City to utilize in addressing the numerous stormwater management issues.
SW Utility Questions
What is a SW Utility?
A SW Utility is an organizational and financial entity whose purpose is to manage and fund a local government SWMP and to provide stormwater management services to customers. Each user of the system is charged a user fee for the services that are provided.
What is a Stormwater User Fee?
A Stormwater User Fee is a charge for stormwater management services provided by the City to all developed residential and non‐ residential properties in the City. The user fee revenue collected can only be used for the provision of stormwater management services to customers within the City.
Who is required to pay a Stormwater User Fee?
All developed properties within the City of Brunswick are charged a SW Utility user fee.
How is a Stormwater User Fee set?
The user fee charge is based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a developed parcel. Impervious surface means those areas which prevent or impede the natural infiltration of rainfall and stormwater runoff. Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, rooftops, buildings or structures, sidewalks, walkways, patio areas, driveways, parking lots, storage areas, awnings and other fabric or plastic coverings, and other surfaces such as compacted soil and gravel. The square footage of impervious surface on a property has a direct correlation to the stormwater runoff discharged from that property. The basic theory is that larger parcels with greater amounts of impervious area will be charged a higher user fee based on the increased runoff amount and the increased demand placed on the City’s drainage system.
Are gravel and compacted soil charged at the same rate as other types of impervious surfaces?
Yes. However, property owners will be able to apply for a reduction in their SWU user fee for any surfaces which are not fully impervious. Some surfaces, such as gravel, pavers, or permeable pavement allow for some infiltration of storm water, and will be eligible for a credit toward the owner’s user fee.
Isn’t this just another tax?
A storm water user fee charge is not a tax. Although the SW Utility fee is an additional cost to customers, it is not a tax because it bears little to no relation to the taxable value of a property. Customers will be charged a SW Utility fee if the property is developed, including “tax exempt” properties (i.e. churches, schools, government facilities, etc.) all of which generate stormwater runoff from their impervious surfaces. This arrangement distributes the burden of the cost of the City’s SWMP across all users of the system rather than just the tax-paying users
How are the Stormwater Utility User Fee Charges utilized by the City?
Storm water user fees collected under this program will be utilized to provide for additional resources to address drainage system maintenance issues in a more proactive manner; achieve compliance with federal, state and regional stormwater regulations; maintain water quality standards in local waterways; and fund drainage related construction projects.
How does the City plan to fix flooding problems?
The revenue collected by the City through the SWU user fees will help alleviate flooding problems by allowing the City to allocate additional personnel and equipment resources toward operations and maintenance activities such as storm system inspections, cleaning, and repairs. A portion of the SWU revenue, along with federal and state grant funds, SPLOST collections, and other revenue sources will be used to fund capital improvement projects to help reduce flooding problems.
In the past, how were stormwater‐related activities funded?
Prior to the SW Utility, drainage system construction and maintenance repair activities were funded by the City’s General Fund which consists primarily of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and property taxes. SPLOST funds have been used primarily for capital improvement projects. This process proved to be both unreliable and unstable from year to year due to the nature of competing priorities within the City’s annual budgeting process as well as local revenue impacts (SPLOST voting). The SW Utility has been established to fund a more comprehensive SWMP without drawing funding away from other City priorities such as Public Safety. Funds collected by the SW Utility can only be spent on the SWMP in accordance with applicable City Ordinances.
If the storm water runs off my property directly into a marsh or county canal and does not enter into the City of Brunswick drainage system, do I have to pay a user fee charge?
If the runoff from a developed property never enters the City’s public drainage system at any point downstream, then a customer would be eligible for a No Direct Discharge Credit of up to 50% off their monthly user fee charge amount per the City’s SW Utility Credit Manual.
Can I get a 100% credit on my Stormwater Utility User Fee bill?
Implementation of the City’s SWMP benefits all developed property owners to some degree and these benefits may be direct, or indirect, or immeasurable. For example, the City’s existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) Stormwater Permit requires that the City address stormwater runoff issues throughout its entire jurisdictional boundary. Another example would be that most every developed property utilizes to some degree the City’s public street system, and the SWMP is responsible for maintaining the functional operation of the drainage systems associated with City streets. Based on this information, it is not practical for a customer to receive more than a 50% credit on their user fee charge even if they do not directly discharge stormwater runoff to the City drainage system. For more information on User Fee Credits, please see the City’s Stormwater Utility Credit Manual.
SW Utility Billing Procedures
How is the amount of impervious area calculated on properties within the City?
The impervious area of non‐single family residential parcels was derived/calculated using aerial photography and/or field verification methods. Aerial photography was also used to establish the median amount of impervious area of single family residential parcels in the City. The median amount of impervious area or equivalent residential unit (ERU) for a residential property has been established to be 2,220 square feet.
What is an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU)?
An Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) is equal to the median amount of impervious area of a typical single‐family residential property within the City of Brunswick. It has been established that the median single‐family property contains approximately 2,220 square feet of impervious area.
What is the City’s SW Utility User Fee billing rate?
The user fee billing rates will be established in a resolution to be approved by the City Commission on August 15, 2018. The proposed rates are $3.95 per ERU per month for the first year (2018 billing year), $4.50 per ERU per month for the second year (2019 billing year) and $4.75 per ERU per month for the third year (2020 billing year) and beyond until further adjusted by the City Commission.
How is the stormwater user fee charge calculated?
All single family residential (SFR) properties will be charged 1.0 ERU per month, except as stipulated in Section 22A-116 of the SW Utility Ordinance. All non‐single family residential (NSFR) properties will be charged a custom amount based on the total impervious area on the property. The total impervious surface area is divided by 2,220 to determine the number of ERUs. The number of ERUs is then multiplied by the rate to arrive at the total charge. For example, in year one of the SW utility, if a NSFR commercial site had 22,200 square feet of impervious surface, that customer would be charged 10 ERUs per month. The billing calculation is 10 ERUs multiplied by $3.95/ERU/month which equals $39.50/month ($474 annually) for the customer account.
How does the City define single family residential customers?
In general, single‐family residential customers are a typical detached residential structure with no more than two dwelling units on a single lot. Please refer to the definitions Section 22A-109 of the SW Utility Ordinance for a more detailed explanation.
How does the City define non‐residential customers?
Non‐Single Family Residential (NSFR) properties are all other customers that do not fit into the single family residential class of customers.
How are multi‐family and/or manufactured home developments billed?
These customers are generally billed as NSFR customers. In most cases, the entire monthly user fee charge will be billed to the property owner/landlord. In some cases, such as developments with individual ownership (condominium), the monthly user fee charge may be billed to the individual owners by dividing up the total user fee charge among all the units.
Will duplexes (and similar type properties) be charged the same as typical SFR customers?
Yes. The typical SFR customers will receive a flat rate storm water user fee bill based on a median impervious area (or ERU) of 2,220 square feet. Any duplexes with two utility accounts (two owners) will be charged a flat rate of 0.5 ERU per month to each owner. The theory is that the impervious area associated with a “duplex type property” is approximately 50% of a full ERU of 2,220 square feet.
What if my SFR property consists of only one small residential structure?
If the SFR structure and associated impervious areas are between 200 square feet and 1,100 square feet, the customer is eligible for a Reduced SFR Footprint Credit per the SW Utility Credit Manual. A customer that secures this credit will receive a 50% credit on their bill.
Why are churches and other tax‐exempt properties required to pay?
All properties within the City limits that have impervious areas in excess of 200 square feet will be charged a stormwater user fee regardless of ownership or property tax status. All impervious surfaces (e.g. parking lots and rooftops) contribute stormwater runoff, and therefore, all customers should share the implementation cost of the City’s SWMP.
How many other Stormwater Utilities exist in Georgia?
As of July 2018, it was estimated that approximately 60 stormwater utilities currently exist within the State of Georgia and more than 600 currently exist across the country.
Why did the City decide to implement a Stormwater User Fee Charge?
In order to address the SWMP needs of the City, the City determined that additional resources were needed in the program. The City Council evaluated the feasibility of SW Utility user fee as opposed to levying a property tax bill because the City believes that user fee approach is a more fair and equitable approach than taxation for SWMP services. The user fee is not based on the assessed “value” of a property, like a tax, rather it is based on each customers demand on the system and the services provided ‐‐ similar to water, sewer, and sanitation. An additional benefit of a SW Utility is that all stormwater user fee revenues must be spent on stormwater management and drainage related issues whereas tax revenues are not subject to such restrictions. Although the user fee is a new charge to residents and businesses for stormwater services, SWMP costs have always existed and were historically absorbed within the City General Fund budget.
Is there any way to reduce the Stormwater User Fee Charge bill amount?
Both residential and non‐residential customers may be able to apply for credits to reduce their stormwater user fee charge by following the procedures outlined in the City’s SW Utility Credit Manual which is available on the City website. The credits are based on specific structural and non‐structural stormwater controls (or best management practices) that reduce the impact of a customer’s stormwater runoff on the City’s drainage system and/or assist the City in meeting its regulatory compliance requirements.
How will the City bill me for SWMP services?
The stormwater user fee charge will be billed on your annual tax bill. If you do not currently receive a tax bill from the City of Brunswick, you will begin to receive stormwater user fee bill beginning in September 2018, and the tax line will be zero on the bill.
What if I think that my Stormwater User Fee Charge bill has been calculated incorrectly?
The customer should contact the City Engineering Department personnel and request a copy of the Stormwater User Fee Charge Inquiry/Review Form. These documents will provide the customer with the needed materials to request a formal user fee charge review.
How do I report a stormwater problem (drainage, flooding, pollution, etc.)?
The customer should contact the City of Brunswick Public Works 24-Hour Service at (912) 267-3703 to report any drainage problems or polluted discharges to the City’s stormwater drainage system.
Who do I call if I have additional questions?
Contact the SW Utility Management personnel with any further questions at 912‐267-5540 or 912-267-5509.