EELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and Councilmember Greg Fox today announced a plan to phase out the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fee, also known as the rain tax, over the next two fiscal years. The fee will be cut in half in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, and eliminated in FY 2018.
“We have a responsibility to our children to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and we can do that through alternative funding,” said Kittleman. “I’ve always said the rain tax created an unnecessary and excessive burden on the residents of Howard County, and particularly small businesses. Today, I am announcing a fiscally responsible blueprint to eliminate it.”
The administration’s plan will be accompanied by a financial assurance plan that details how the County will maintain funding of its stormwater management program during the phase out period. The County will utilize a variety of sources, including monies from the General Fund, the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund, and Government Obligation Bonds.
The County estimates the FY 2017 and FY 2018 costs of administering the stormwater program to be about $19 million and $21 million, respectively. In FY 2017, the County will use General Fund and the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund revenues to absorb all of the operating and some of the capital costs. General Obligation Bonds will be used to fund the additional capital costs. In FY 2018, the County will use General Fund revenues to fund operating expenses, while using General Obligation Bonds to fund capital costs.
“I grew up right off the Magothy River and spent a lot of time there and on the Chesapeake Bay. I understand and appreciate that watershed,” said Fox. “This is not about us not trying to do what we are obligated to do. There are some new technologies that we should explore that might actually help us reduce our costs and have a quicker impact on the Chesapeake Bay.”
“I have always believed that government, like its citizens, should live within its means,” said Kittleman. “I believe that this fiscally responsible plan is a roadmap that puts us on a path to do just that. We want to offer tax relief to our residents and our businesses.”
In administering its stormwater management program, the County will continue to exercise fiscal prudence in selecting projects to pursue, as well as utilize innovative practices, in an overarching strategy to reduce the overall fiscal burden of its federally mandated stormwater permit.