Stormwater (FAQ) Frequently Asked Questions

Quick Reference to your SW Municipal/District Fee and SW County Fee for 2016

General

1. What is stormwater and why does it matter?

2. What is the stormwater utility?

County Ratepayers

3. Why has my stormwater fee changed?

4. What is the County’s MS4 permit?

5. How is my fee calculated?

6. Why am I being charged for my undeveloped land?

7. What do I do if I believe I’ve been charged the wrong amount?

8. Why do I have to pay if I don’t use the storm drainage system?

9. What if I am tax-exempt?

10. Does the fee depend on rain?

11. Will my property be inspected?

12. What if I own more than one parcel?

13. How can I get stormwater fee credits?

14. Where can I find more information?

City or Town Ratepayers

15. Why has my stormwater fee changed?

16. What is the new stormwater line on my tax bill (SW- County FEE OR sw-cwi fEE)?


General

1. What is stormwater and why does it matter?

Stormwater is the runoff that occurs over land, roads, parking lots, and other surfaces during and after rain. If it rains hard enough, water cannot be absorbed into the ground and instead flows over the surface, where it picks up dirt and pollutants. Eventually, this water makes it into streams, rivers, and into the ocean with everything it picked up along the way. These materials can be harmful to the water quality in these sensitive water bodies. Stormwater drains and ditches along the roadside are meant to control the flow of stormwater and keep it from picking up too many harmful materials.

2. What is the stormwater utility?

Beaufort County, the City of Beaufort, and the Towns of Bluffton, Port Royal, and Hilton Head Island each have an individual stormwater utility, which is a separate fund and a dedicated revenue source for funding activities and programs related to stormwater management. The utilities were implemented in 2001 as a means to ensure an adequate, sustainable revenue source to support the needs of the community. The jurisdictions coordinate on the utility administration element of their programs and share some services to achieve greater efficiencies, but the programs are separate and are managed within each jurisdiction’s local government.

County Ratepayers

3. Why has my stormwater fee changed?

Earlier this year, Beaufort County’s municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) was permitted under the EPA’s NPDES program (see question 2). Compliance with this permit will be expensive in the coming years, and on top of this the County will have mounting costs to maintain aging infrastructure.

Beginning in 2015, Beaufort County shifted to an updated stormwater utility fee rate structure to achieve:

  • the most fair distribution of utility costs among ratepayers;
  • the best use of available data; and
  • a level of revenue sufficient to achieve program needs and requirements.

4. What is the County’s MS4 permit?

In December 2015, Beaufort County’s municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) was permitted under the EPA’s NPDES program. The permit requires the County to begin or ramp up programs in the areas of

  • Public Education and Outreach;
  • Public Participation/Involvement;
  • Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination;
  • Construction Site Runoff Control;
  • Post-Construction Runoff Control; and
  • Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping.

While the County endeavors to fulfill permit requirements as cost effectively as possible, these programs will require additional staffing, equipment, and materials, and represent a significant expansion of the current stormwater program.

5. How is my fee calculated?

In 2015, Beaufort County adopted a new rate structure. In 2016, the Town of Port Royal and City of Beaufort adopted the same system and the Town of Hilton Head adopted it in 2017. However, the Town of Bluffton has not made a change and continues to bill based on a traditional approach of impervious area fees only.

There are three components to the new fee.

First, there is a fixed rate to cover utility administration and certain costs that do not vary by parcel size or impervious area, such as water quality monitoring and public education. Establishing a fixed component of the charge ensures that no one is charged more per unit area to cover these uniform costs.

Beaufort County City of Beaufort Town of Port Royal Town of Hilton Head
Administrative Fee   $12.00 $5.00 $5.07 $24.00

Second, there is a rate based on the gross area (total acreage) of property. Though it leads to a lower volume of discharge than impervious area, even pervious land contributes to stormwater runoff and nutrient loading. This is reflected in the gross area charge, without being overly burdensome to large landowners. There are four blocks of gross area charges, which are described in the following table.

Acreage

Beaufort County

Gross Area Charge

City of Beaufort

Gross Area Charge

Town of Port Royal

Gross Area Charge

Town of Hilton Head

Gross Area Charge

0-2 acres

$ 10

$ 20

$ 11.43

$21.00

2-10 acres

$ 5 per acre

$ 10 per acre

$ 5.715 per acre

$10.50 per acre

10-100 acres

$ 4 per acre

$ 8 per acre

$ 4.572 per acre

$8.40 per acre

Over 100 acres

$ 3 per acre

$ 6 per acre

$ 3.429 per acre

$6.30 per acre

Third, there is a rate for a property’s impervious area (rooftops, driveways, parking lots, etc.) to cover costs linked to the amount and quality of runoff from properties. Runoff from impervious area is the most intense, creating high flows and also carrying high concentrations of nutrients and pollutants downstream, so many costs of stormwater management are tied to impervious area. The impervious area fee for residential properties is flat-rated depending on the type of property as described in the table below.

Residential Property Type

Beaufort County

Impervious Area Charge

City of Beaufort

Impervious Area Charge

Town of Port Royal

Impervious Area Charge

Town of Hilton Head

Impervious Area Charge

Single Family Detached, Small

$ 32.50

$ 40

$ 21.75

$52.50

Single Family Detached, Medium

$ 65.00

$ 80

$ 43.50

$105.00

Single Family Detached, Large

$ 97.50

$ 120

$ 65.25

$157.50

Condominium

$ 17.55

$ 21.60

$ 11.75

$28.35

Mobile Home

$ 23.40

$ 28.80

$ 15.66

$37.80

Apartment

$ 25.35 per unit

$ 31.20

$ 16.97

$40.95

Townhome

$ 39.00

$ 48.00

$ 26.10

$63.00

Non-SFR properties will be charged the Single Family Detached (Medium) rate for each unit of impervious area or part thereof that is on the property. This unit measurement is based on the impervious area of a typical single family residential parcel for homes within the County: 4,906 square feet.

These three components are added together to create the total stormwater fee for an individual parcel.

6. Why am I being charged for my undeveloped land?

Under the new rate structure, all area of the property is charged, even if it is undeveloped, under the gross area fee component. Gross area is included as a component of the stormwater fee to capture the costs not solely related to impervious area runoff. As opposed to impervious area, undeveloped land area contributes proportionately more to the nutrients and pollutants that stormwater runoff may pick up and less to the sheer volume of runoff to be managed. A pervious surface can absorb some of the water that falls on it, so it does not contribute as much to runoff. However, pervious land still contributes pesticides, fertilizers, leaves, and other undesirable materials to the runoff that does occur. As such, stormwater costs related to water quality and quantity (most O&M costs) are partially allocable to gross land area.

7. What do I do if I believe I’ve been charged the wrong amount?

If you believe your stormwater fee to be founded on the incorrect amount of impervious or gross area, please contact the Beaufort County Stormwater Utility at 843-255-2801 or email wstormwater@bcgov.net .  Please be able to provide supporting information for your claim. More information can be found on the Beaufort County website at http://www.bcgov.net/stormwater.

8. Why do I have to pay if I don’t use the storm drainage system?

Every property in Beaufort County benefits from the storm drainage system, even if its runoff doesn’t directly enter the system. For example, all County roads (which are used regularly by residents, customers of businesses, tourists, etc.) have associated drainage systems. The maintenance of these systems is one of many County-wide services supported by the fee.

9. What if I am tax-exempt?

Churches, schools, non-profits, and other select groups within each jurisdiction are exempt from taxes, but are still subject to the stormwater fee. As these groups receive the stormwater services provided, and own properties that contribute to runoff, the allocation of costs in this way is fairer to all. Keep in mind that these groups will remain tax exempt, so the stormwater fee may be the only charge on the tax bill.

10. Does the fee depend on rain?

Because many stormwater services are provided regardless of the amount of runoff, there is no variation in the fee due to weather.

11. Will my property be inspected?

Property owners that do not seek to receive stormwater credits for best management practices (BMPs) will not have any required inspections associated with the fee.  Only property owners seeking to receive credit for stormwater BMPs (see Question #13) may have their properties inspected. The credit application approval process may include an on-site review of the structure for which the property owner is seeking credit.

12. What if I own more than one parcel?

Owners of multiple properties will receive one stormwater fee per parcel as they do with County taxes.

13. How can I get stormwater fee credits?

In support of the stormwater management goals of the utility, owners of non-residential properties are eligible to receive credit on their stormwater bill by implementing various types of stormwater structural control measures or best management practices. Eligible measures must be reviewed and approved by the Stormwater Utility Manager.

14. Where can I find more information?

More information can be found on the Beaufort County website http://www.bcgov.net/stormwater. Beaufort County Stormwater Utility general phone number is 843-255-2801 or email wstormwater@bcgov.net

City or Town Ratepayers

15. Why has my stormwater fee changed?

The Beaufort County Stormwater Utility works every year to update data that is the basis for every property’s stormwater fee. This year, the Utility used recent aerial imagery to bring data for a large number of properties up to date. A changed fee for a City or Town property reflects the most up-to-date billing data. Fees for all incorporated areas are based on the same rate structure and rates as last year.

Also, In 2016, the Town of Port Royal and City of Beaufort adopted a new rate structure and the Town of Hilton Head Island adopted it in 2017. The Town of Bluffton has not made a change and continues to bill based on a traditional approach of impervious area fees only.

There are three components to the new rate structure fee. While the dollar amounts differ from the County’s fee rates, an explanation of the new rate structure can be found in Question #5 above.

16. What is the new stormwater line on my tax bill (SW-County Fee OR SW-CWI Fee)?

The County maintains some larger drainage infrastructure within each of the four municipalities in addition to the unincorporated area. County-wide infrastructure is defined as pipes and open ditches both in and out of rights of way that are owned or maintained by the County.

County-wide infrastructure maintenance costs have not been allocated to any ratepayers outside the unincorporated County before this year, meaning revenue from fees charged to property owners in the unincorporated County have been funding infrastructure maintenance, repair, and replacement activities throughout all five jurisdictions. These activities have been limited in the incorporated areas because funding levels, supported by the unincorporated ratepayers only, were insufficient.

The new charge distributes the County’s costs for County-wide infrastructure maintenance across all the unincorporated and incorporated areas of the County based on linear feet of pipes and open ditches in each jurisdiction.