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Stormwater fee changes in Athens-Clarke County

As of July 1, 2024, the Athens-Clarke County stormwater utility fee for properties increased for the first time since it was implemented two decades ago in order to provide more sustainable, long-term funding for stormwater infrastructure. The stormwater utility fee, first enacted in 2005, can only be used on stormwater programs, which includes repairing and replacing old or failed culverts such as those on Olympic Drive, Barber Street, and Athena Drive in recent years.

A Stormwater Advisory Committee consisting of residents, business owners, and water professionals appointed by Mayor Kelly Girtz first met in July 2021 to begin discussing program changes. At their final meeting on August 15, 2023, the committee voted to recommend a financial option for the stormwater fee that included long-term, sustainable funding for stormwater infrastructure.

The Mayor and Commission accepted the recommendation at their January 2, 2024 voting meeting. Bills reflecting the new rates will be mailed out beginning in July of this year.

The new utility fee rates will increase the average residential stormwater utility bill by $14 a year from an average of $42 to $56 annually. Individual bills will vary based largely on the amount of hard surfaces, such as rooftops and driveways, on a resident’s or business’ property. These areas prevent rainfall from soaking into the ground and are often referred to as impervious surfaces. The amount of impervious surface on a property is the driving factor behind the stormwater fee, as those surfaces generate runoff that must be handled by the public stormwater system.

As part of the funding changes, the Stormwater Advisory Committee also recommended a new program that allows single-family residential property owners with erosion problems to request the delivery of rock “riprap” to their location to help prevent further erosion. Additionally, residents can also now request cleaning of stormwater pipes that are located under driveways and within the Athens-Clarke County right-of-way.

Residents can also continue to submit locations of public street storm drains and roadside ditches that need to be cleaned and request advice regarding drainage issues in their yards to the Stormwater Management Program.

Any changes in stormwater bills that customers have seen prior to the rate increases in July 2024 have been a reflection of updated data regarding the amount of hard impervious surfaces, such as rooftops and driveways, on the property.

Up until 2005, Athens-Clarke County stormwater programs were funded through property taxes, which were reduced at that time to offset the new fee when it was created. A utility fee is considered to be more equitable than property tax because owners of tax-exempt properties, such as churches, non-profit organizations, and the University of Georgia pay into the fund.

Residents have been overwhelmingly in favor of a funding system that charges both taxable and tax-exempt developed property. Unlike property taxes, revenue from the fee can be spent only on stormwater programs and infrastructure.

This includes implementation of a comprehensive stormwater program in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, ongoing maintenance of Athens-Clarke County’s stormwater system, and infrastructure inspections. Recently, large investments have been made to replace rusted out corrugated metal pipes – some of which have cost over $1 million to replace – that have collapsed under roads.

The Stormwater Management Program is a division of the Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works Department. Stormwater billing questions should be directed to 706-613-3989 or by email to stormwater@accgov.com.

Additional information regarding Athens-Clarke County’s Stormwater Management Program, including billing-specific information, opportunities for credits on fees, and information about the Stormwater Advisory Committee, is available at www.accgov.com/stormwater.


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