Westmont looks at 'rain tax' to fund stormwater services

Published: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 4:36 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman)
Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com Water gushes out of a sewer cover on 55th Street near Park Street in Westmont in April.

WESTMONT – The Village of Westmont may soon join neighboring Downers Grove in instituting a utility fee to fund stormwater services.

On Thursday, Westmont's Community Stormwater Management Committee presented the Village Board with seven recommendations to reduce flooding in town, one of which included the stormwater fee proposal.

"[The fee] is a fair method for determine who pays and how much, but it also could include incentives which would help reduce long term costs," Village Finance Director Spencer Parker said at the meeting.

Much like Downers Grove's system, the fee would be based on the amount of impervious area on each property, including roofs, decks, parking lots and driveways.

The fee would charge property owners directly to pay for stormwater sewer projects. Currently, those projects — such as replacing a stormwater detention basin — were funded by village property taxes.

In Downers Grove, officials said the new utility fee would essentially be a wash for property owners, as the village cut property taxes nearly $2 million this year to account for the separate fee.

Most single-family parcels in Downers Grove pay between $6.30 and $12.60 a month under the new fee. It's unclear if Westmont's fee would be similar, if enacted.

The biggest impact in Downers Grove, however, has been felt by nonprofits in town. Nonprofits are exempt from property taxes, so the utility fee represents a new cost for them.

Property-owning nonprofits in Downers Grove have responded with protests at board meetings, some of them claiming the new cost, up to hundreds of dollars a month, has forced cuts to beneficial community programs.

The stormwater utility fee was one of seven recommendations discussed at the meeting Thursday, though none were as significant as the proposed fee, the first recommendation listed.

Officials pinpointed several neighborhoods that are especially in need of stormwater improvements:

Westmont neighborhoods and areas at high risk for stormwater issues: King Arthur Court, Northeast Acres, Warwick, Northwest Acres, Park Street, Chicago Avenue and Washington Street at the intersection and the surrounding watershed, Richmond and Grant streets at the intersection, Traube Avenue and Grant Street.

The Westmont Village Board is expected to make a recommendation on the stormwater proposals during its Nov. 14 board meeting.

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DuPage County also considering 'rain tax'

In August, Gov. Quinn signed a bill allowing DuPage County to adopt its own stormwater utility fee, which would charge all county property owners a fee to fund stormwater services, much like the Village of Downers Grove's fee.

County Board Chairman Dan Cronin in September said the fee is still "very much up for debate."

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