A mailer went out to property owners in the Borough of Conshohocken this past week that stated that the a new stormwater fee will be applied to quarterly sewer bills from the Borough of Conshohocken Authority most likely starting in April 2024. You can view the mailer here.
The new fee is anticipated to be “roughly” $6.50 per 1,000 square feet of impervious area on a property according to the mailer. This is expected to average $10 per month for a single family residential customer (or $120 for the year). As of 2022, 27 municipalities in Pennsylvania had adopted a stormwater fee according to Penn State Extension. If a fee is not imposed according to the mailer, than taxes would have to be increased.
The need for the fee is attributed to state-level and federal requirements for municipalities to manage stormwater, which includes maintaining stormwater infrastructure and plans to address flooding concerns.
Currently, the funding for this requirement comes out of taxes. According to the mailer, tax-exempt properties benefit from the infrastructure, however, do not contribute to the upkeep and improvements. If a fee is imposed, then all property owners would pay towards stormwater issues.
However, tax-exempt property owners have challenged a similar fee in the Borough of West Chester and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania found on January 4, 2023 that the fee is actually a tax.
From an article titled New Tax Implications in Pennsylvania Stormwater Fees Court Decision by attorney Naomi Centrella of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba:
On January 4, 2023, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, in The Borough of West Chester v. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and West Chester University of Pennsylvania of the State System of Higher Education, decided that the impervious surface area of a property does not directly correlate to the level of benefit accorded the owner of that property.
In other words, Pennsylvania stormwater charges are not fees for service, as they are not reasonably proportional to the value or benefit received in return for payment. These fees are instead used to subsidize ongoing stormwater programs and public projects. The Court opined that such projects provide benefits enjoyed not only by the specific property owners paying these fees but also by the general public. Thus, the Court held that stormwater charges are taxes, instead of just fees.
The ruling by the Commonwealth Court was appealed to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (view documents). The state’s highest court has not yet ruled on the matter.
The Borough of Conshohocken Authority is holding two public meetings to address the new fee. The meetings are scheduled for December 7th and January 18th at 6:30 p.m. in Conshohocken’s Borough Hall.
MoreThanTheCurve.com will contact the officials involved and ask some questions for a follow-up article.