Stormwater User Fee FAQ’s

Listed below are some FAQ’s about the stormwater user fee. Please feel free to call or email the City Manager, Beth Reardon, if you have additional questions: 297-6041 or breardon@citybellemeade.org.

What is Stormwater?

Stormwater, also referred to as runoff, surface water, or wet weather flow, is rain or snow that falls on streets, parking areas, driveways, rooftops, terraces, and other impervious surfaces. Stormwater then flows directly into nearby waterways or through drainage systems such as curbs, gutters, inlets, ditches, pipes, storm sewers or detention ponds before being discharged directly into Richland Creek and its tributaries. As stormwater runs across surfaces, it picks up pollutants or contaminants such as litter, debris, oils and antifreeze from cars, soil, pet waste, fertilizers, etc. As it picks up these contaminants, it becomes polluted runoff – the largest source of pollution in our waterways. Unlike our wastewater collection and treatment systems, stormwater receives no treatment before it is released into the environment.

What is a Stormwater User Fee?

A stormwater user fee is a financial charge for stormwater services. It is a user fee and not a tax. A stormwater utility, like all utilities, is user-oriented. Similar to water/sewer user fees, stormwater fees are based on a property’s use of, or demand on, the public drainage system and stormwater management services. Across the country and in Tennessee, it has been shown that stormwater user fees are a fair approach to supplement the cost of providing stormwater services to those who most directly benefit from them.

Why is the City Charging a User Fee?

Under the unfunded mandate brought about by the Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 as amended by the Water Quality Act of 1987, and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977, local governments must bear full financial responsibility for implementing and maintaining a stormwater management program. The Tennessee Dept. of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) requires the City to implement a stormwater management program. Tenn. Code Annotated §68-221-1107 authorizes municipalities to establish and charge a stormwater user fee. Even before the initial stormwater permit was issued in 2003, the City’s General Fund has provided 100% funding for all stormwater related expenses. A defined user fee will allow the City to address increasing expenses, as well as the list of pending projects and improvements to the stormwater system that have been delayed due to budget constraints. The City will continue to budget a portion of General Fund monies to finance the costs of the stormwater management program each year and does not expect the user fees to cover all expenses related to the stormwater management program.

How is the User Fee Calculated?

Fees can be based on a variety of standards, but the Commissioners approved the recommendation of the City’s consulting engineer to base the fee on the amount of impervious surface on a developed residential property, which is a common standard. An index called the “equivalent residential unit” or ERU is used to compare the stormwater runoff generated by different size properties with different amounts of impervious surface. (Impervious surfaces are those disturbed or hardened surface areas that prevent or limit the natural entry of water into the soil and include rooftops, sidewalks, walkways, patios, driveways, parking lots, detached garages/sheds, compacted gravel/soil surfaces, awnings or other coverings.) After the engineer’s analysis of sample properties in Belle Meade, the ERU was determined to be 12,200 square feet of impervious area. As approved by the Commissioners, the monthly stormwater user fee rate per single ERU is $7.47. Based on the engineer’s analysis of lot sizes in Belle Meade, residential properties were divided into three categories according to square footage. The data on lot square footage was obtained from the Metro Nashville/Davidson County tax rolls. The table below indicates the stormwater user fee for each category of residential lot sizes:

Total Lot Area (sq. ft.) Factor x ERU Monthly Rate Monthly Fee Annual Fee
0 – 40,000 0.5 x $7.47 $ 3.74 $ 44.88
40,001 – 70,000 1.0 x $7.47 $ 7.47 $ 89.64
> 70,000 2.0 x $7.47 $14.94 $179.28

To save time and money, the City plans to bill annually for the stormwater user fee at the same time property tax notices are mailed in October.

How Will the Monies Collected be Used?

As mentioned earlier in this letter, user fees will supplement the total cost of the City’s stormwater maintenance program. It is important to note that all monies collected through user fees will be designated for stormwater related purposes only, and cannot be used for other City expenditures or programs. If the total amount collected annually is not used in a budget year, the excess user fees will roll over into the next budget year and be designated for stormwater purposes only. In some cases where the City has plans for large capital improvement projects, the user fees may purposefully be allowed to accumulate for more than one budget year.

User fees will be used to support the stormwater management program which includes but is not limited to: administering the NPDES permit, drainage maintenance, monthly street sweeping, annual creek debris removal maintenance, monitoring and sampling for water quality, and planning, design and construction of facility improvements.

Do Residents Have To Pay The User Fee Even If There Are No Drainage Problems On Their Property?

Yes, because everyone in the City benefits from the stormwater management program. Stormwater does run off of all properties, and the City is required to have a program and funding to manage the stormwater runoff and pollutants. All property owners benefit from the management of runoff upstream and downstream of waterways, maintenance of safe roadways, and improvements to water quality.

What If a Resident Disagrees with the Total Lot Area (sq. ft.) That Appears on the Invoice?

The City used the Metro Nashville/Davidson County tax rolls as the source of its data on total lot area. If a property owner has proof that their lot size is different than the invoice indicates, the City will adjust its records and the invoice accordingly. Please contact the City Manager at 297-6041 or breardon@citybellemeade.org.