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Reno, Nevada, Oct 20, 2021. (Photo by Ken Kurson for The Nevada Globe)

Reno City Council Approves Stormwater Utility

The initial monthly fee proposed is $9.82 to fund a 32-year infrastructure project at a cost of $470 million

By Megan Barth, December 14, 2023 12:36 pm

During yesterday’s monthly council meeting, the City of Reno approved a new Stormwater Utility that will charge a fee to every Reno homeowner and business. The initial monthly fee proposed is $9.82 to fund a 32-year infrastructure project at a cost of $470 million.

Although the city maintains there is no impact to businesses, many business owners and their representatives remarked that there would be a significant financial impact that would have to be passed on to consumers.

A representative from the Reno Airport voiced similar concerns and revealed that the airport would incur an additional $50,000 per month in additional costs and stressed that these costs would result in higher fees to travelers and airlines which would ultimately impact the ability to negotiate new routes, making the Reno airport less competitive.

Tommy Ferraro from the Nevada Resorts Association (NRA) cited similar and additional concerns. Ferraro said that the NRA “cannot support the ordinance as presented.”

Ferraro warned that there would be a “negative impact on air service and tourism” and requested that the action be considered after the 2025 legislative session. Ferraro also requested that  tapering the fee would ensure that there is not an excess in the Utility and opposed automatic CPI increases, urging the council to vote on each increase “for the sake of transparency.”

Adam Searcy, COO of the Washoe County School District noted that the district’s reports weren’t included in the public documents and further noted that CPI increases were not “relevant costs” for the Stormwater Utitlity fee.

“We don’t have ability to increase revenues or pass along costs. We have to absorb the entirety which is at least $200,000 on year one.  This is a substantial impact. The annual escalation of this fee  is uniquely and fiscally burdensome to the district,” Searcy warned.

UNR also voiced their concerns regarding the fee and the anticipated impact to the University and their students.

Andrew McKay, an executive with the Auto Dealers Trade Association also echoed the concerns with CPI increases and requested that the council annually approve the increases. “We run below a 2% margin. We will have to pass this cost along to consumers. Cost is a big impediment to get people into vehicles,” Mckay noted. “There is no proposed sunset. The costs should drop as maintenance is less than construction. Many dealers have catch basins. There is no credit on this,” McKay added.

Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, who is a Democratic candidate for Senate District 15 and who currently represents Damonte Ranch in Ward 2, claimed that her constituents “don’t want to pay anything.”

The Globe contacted Duerr for clarification. Duerr told The Globe: “I am pushing for a credit greater than the 15% that the city has proposed. This credit would be given to Damonte Ranch homeowners and others.”

For background, Damonte Ranch developers established a separate and private funded sewer and stormwater drainage system and related fee to homeowners and businesses.

Damonte Ranch Developers push back against the City of Reno for “double taxation”. (Photo: https://dra.ebmcportals.com/stormnotice.aspx)

Councilman Devon Reese noted that the City has been “kicking the can down the road for 30-40 years. The intensity and frequency of floods are increasing and we have nearly a half- billion in deferred maintenance,” Reese noted.

“I think we still have some work to do. I am not prepared to move forward due to legitimate partners being present and stressing their concerns. We generally don’t have this many people in the room,” Reese added.

Although the fee received numerous and challenging feedback from residents and businesses, the Council voted to establish the fund. Council asked staff to explore several issues related to the monthly fee itself including:

  • Sunset ordinance after period time and/or specify review periods
  • Tiering based on property size
  • Credit programs
  • Caps related to Consumer Price Index
  • Educational institutional and public facility exemptions
  • Civil aircraft

Future discussions surrounding the fee will be brought back to Council next year.

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Megan Barth
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