Home>Feature>City Of Reno To Vote On Additional Stormwater Utility Tax

Downtown Reno at Night. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for The Nevada Globe)

City Of Reno To Vote On Additional Stormwater Utility Tax

The tax is slated to increase automatically, annually, and without public input or council oversight, indefinitely

By Megan Barth, December 7, 2023 3:51 pm

As reported by The Globe earlier this year, the City of Reno is proposing a new Stormwater Utility that would require residents, businesses, and schools to pay a “fee”, otherwise known as a tax, to maintain and improve stormwater infrastructure.

According to the City of Reno website, the average fee per homeowner would be an estimated and initial $13.49 per month (2022 estimate). The tax is slated to increase automatically, annually, and without public input or council oversight, indefinitely.

The City of Reno outlines the Stormwater Utility funding and necessity on their webpage claiming that city infrastructure is “non-existent, aging, or damaged”– leaving this Reno homeowner to wonder why precious tax dollars are being spent on a rusty whale statue, an estimated $70 million dollar rehabilitation project, tens of millions of dollars on a violence-plagued homeless campus, and city murals.

City of Reno’s Chief Equityand Community Relationship Officer (Photo: City of Reno)

The city claims that these repairs and improvements have been “identified over the last thirty years but have not been implemented due to lack of funding.” Leaving this homeowner, once again, to wonder why there has been a lack of funding for infrastructure (isn’t that what our tax dollars are for?) but plenty of funding for art projects and equity and diversity positions within the bloated city government.

The proposed Stormwater Utility would collect fees to provide a dedicated funding source committed exclusively to maintaining and improving stormwater and flood reduction infrastructure. The main reasons so many cities across the country implement stormwater utilities are to:

  • prevent flooding
  • protect water quality
  • maintain, replace or repair aging infrastructure
  • avoid costly emergency responses

Many structures that protect our city from these stormwater threats are non-existent, aging, or damaged, and we need a long term solution. The solution is a more dependable source of funding to improve our system of storm drains, culverts, flood control and water-quality structures that would improve the overall health and safety of Reno residents. A proactive approach will save money in the long run, compared to reactive emergency responses.

We are proposing a stormwater utility fee that, if approved, would provide dedicated funding to support repairs and improvements to our stormwater system that have been identified over the last 30 years but have not been implemented due to lack of funding sources.

The Washoe County School District (WCSD) has voiced their concern in a letter (see below) which outlines the significant tax burden the school district would realize. WCSD operates 54 facilities and would be subject to an additional, annual tax of $575,000 or the “annual salary of approximately 10 school teachers.” The annual tax increases tied to CPI would cost the district $6.3 million over 10 years. (emphasis added).

Additionally, WCSD highlights that this tax has been discussed for years and has increased by 60 percent over two years without proper explanation and will automatically and indefinitely increase without public input or council oversight:

The City has studied the structure of a stormwater utility for several years. As recently as Fall of 2021, the possible ERU rates being considered were as low as $8.50 / ERU / month. In late 2022, the City presented new possible ERU rates which had increased by some 40% with little more explanation than the City’s consultant had updated their financial model. During the City Council’s December 14, 2022 meeting, the highest end of the proposed fees was chosen to incorporate into this Ordinance at $13.46/ERU/month, a nearly 60% increase to what was presented publicly as recently as Fall 2021. This dramatically inflated rate is now the least this fee will ever be, and is slated to increase automatically, annually, and without public input or council oversight, indefinitely.

Home owners in Damonte Ranch, a planned community of over 5,000 homes would be taxed twice for stormwater and flood mitigation. According to a letter sent to the City by the developers, they note that homeowners already pay a monthly fee to the Damonte Ranch Drainage District and should therefore be exempt as “Damonte Ranch is the only neighborhood in the City of Reno that not only paid for the construction of regional stormwater facilities, but privately funds their operation and maintenance in perpetuity.  The City of Reno provides no funding to the Damonte Ranch Drainage District for the regional stormwater benefits it provides.”

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

The city has scheduled a December 13th meeting to consider and vote on this indefinite and progressive tax.

The Globe will continue to provide updates to this story and Reno residents and business owners are encouraged to provide comment on the City of Reno’s website.

WCSD - Business Impacts Statement - Stormwater Fee - FINAL (1)


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Megan Barth
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