Stormwater Utility

The Borough of Greenville owns, operates and maintains the public storm water collection system within its municipal boundaries. Observations by the Borough's Department of Public Works began indicating that portions of the storm sewer system were beginning to show signs of distress, a fact made evident on August 20, 2014 when more than three inches of rain fell in little more than one hour and a 200-foot section of the 48-inch storm sewer beneath Brackin Alley suffered a catastrophic collapse. The Borough has since undertaken a project to replace the Brackin Alley storm sewer, but this event demonstrated the need to adequately address this often overlooked but critical public infrastructure system. 

Historically, funds to construct, operate and maintain the storm sewer system have been derived from the general tax revenues generated by the Borough, primarily derived via property taxes. As is commonplace throughout the United States, storm sewer systems are the "forgotten" infrastructure. Since, an underground system functions only during rainfall events, storm sewer systems are most often far down the list of needs behind public safety concerns such as police, fire, and snow removal and public services such as trash removal, parks and recreation. The 2014 storm, which also caused widespread flooding throughout the Borough brought the critical public safety factor of resilient storm water controls to the forefront. The Greenville Borough Council commissioned this report in order to examine an equitable alternative to generate a dedicated revenue source for the Borough's storm water system to assess and repair the system's aging infrastructure and undertake improvements to address adequate capacity. 

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Stormwater fee calculation

A summary of the total ERU values determined by the analysis of existing residential and non-residential parcels is presented in Table 6-1. 

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The recommended minimum Annual Storm Water Utility Program Cost is $335,850 (See Section 5). In order to calculate the Storm Water Fee on a per ERU basis, the total annual program costs are divided by the total available ERUs. 

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Approximately fifty nine percent (59%) of the Borough's parcels are currently taxable (i.e. residences, commercial businesses, etc.). The remaining forty one percent (41%) are tax exempt (i.e. churches, schools, non-profits, etc.), see Figure 6-1. This situation puts the burden of maintaining the entire storm water system on slightly over half of the parcels under the method traditionally used (i.e. general tax revenues). No provision is made under this traditional model to consider a parcel's contribution of storm water to the storm sewer system. Intuitively, it can be recognized that many of the tax exempt parcels contain large impervious surfaces and contribute an inordinately larger share of storm water than a taxable parcel. An inequity further increased by the tax exempt parcel's zero contribution to the municipality via general tax revenue. 

Figure 6-1 - Comparison of the Number Taxable vs. Tax Exempt Parcels in Greenville

Another examination to be made is to look at the land use within the Borough. Figure 6-2 presents the breakdown between the percentages of residential, non-residential and vacant (containing no structure or improvements) parcels. The 2,082 residential parcels make up seventy eight percent (78%) for the land use, with the 334 non-residential (all uses other than single family detached homes) making up twelve percent (12%} and the remaining ten percent (10%} being 271 vacant lots. This analysis likewise does not reflect any measurement as to what share of storm water these parcel uses generate. 

Figure 6-2 - Comparison of the Land Use in Greenville

Figure 6-3 presents the results of the residential and non-residential ERU calculations prepared in Sections 3 and 4 respectively. Vacant (undeveloped) land is assumed to not contribute an additional runoff and is removed from the analysis. As is clearly indicated, the 334 non-residential parcels generate the equivalent of 2,396 average single family homes in Greenville or fifty four percent (54%} of the storm water runoff. The 2,082 single family homes generate only forty six percent {46%) of the storm water generated by impervious surfaces. 
This analysis demonstrates the benefit of a storm water fee based upon impervious area being used as a surrogate for the actual measured storm water volumes being contributed to a storm water system. This user fee based model ensures that all parcels that benefit from the Borough owned and maintained storm water system are paying a portion of the cost of that system based upon its portioned use of it. 

Figure 6-3 - Comparison of Residential ERUs vs. Non-Residential ERUs

Based upon our review of the current aging condition of the Greenville's storm water system, the current limited expenditures available from the Borough's general fund to maintain and repair the system, and the unequable distribution of costs to maintain and improve the system to only taxable properties that is currently employed by the Borough, it is our recommendation that Greenville Borough create a storm water utility. The storm water utility should be based upon the ERU based model presented in this report as the means of establishing an equitable used fee based cost structure. The storm water utility should adopt an annual fee of $75/ERU and use the resulting revenue only for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the Borough's storm sewer system.  → read the full conclusion and recommendations here.