A September 17 Frederick News-Post article reported that Frederick County executive and council candidates are debating a variety of issues related to the state-mandated stormwater remediation fee (referred to as a “Rain Tax” by its opponents). While some of the issues, such as whether the fee should exist at all, seem more defined by partisan lines, other concerns are being raised by candidates from both parties. Currently, the County has enacted a 1-cent fee that the Maryland Department of the Environment has indicated will not be sufficient to meet the County’s expected stormwater remediation costs under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load or the County’s pending Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit.
One area of shared concern is the cost to Frederick County taxpayers for stormwater remediation:
County staff have estimated that the local cost to meet state watershed goals could total $1.88 billion by 2025. The county’s five-year storm water permit, which is now being renewed through the state, could come with a price tag of $142.3 million, said Shannon Moore, who manages the county’s office of sustainability and environmental resources.
County Executive candidate Jan Gardner stated that the stormwater remediation costs need to be addressed:
Whether the county finds this money through the stormwater fee or in its general fund, taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill, Gardner said. She noted that the current cost estimate for the permit breaks down to more than $28 million annually, more than the county budgets for its public works division.
Gardner said she’s not ready to suggest where the county might find money to deal with the additional cost burden. First, elected leaders should collaborate with state officials to make the permit less expensive, she said.
The article also noted that many candidates were concerned about the science behind the targets.
Gardner, [County Executive candidate Blaine] Young and a number of council candidates also question the accuracy of the scientific assumptions that underpin cleanup targets. Linda Norris, a Democratic candidate for a council at-large seat, says she’s open to adjusting the fee so long as the county isn’t required to pay more than its share.
“I don’t mind asking citizens to pay for a community need, but I want to make sure I’m asking for the right amount,” she said.
Young cited concerns over the science when voicing his opposition to the stormwater fee in the article: “I don’t think the residents of Frederick County should be having to foot the bill for what others have done, especially when it’s based on faulty studies and science. With me, it’s non-negotiable.” The article also noted that some candidates like County Council candidate Billy Shreve believe that other Bay watershed states, such as Pennsylvania, must be held accountable for their pollution contributions.