Paying For Rain: The Details

Thomas MacMillan PhotoWith the creation of a new stormwater authority, a city worker will check out your house via satellite—to see how big a bill you should receive.

That’s part of how a controversial new plan would work to separate out how New Haveners pay for storm run-off—and to have not-for-profits like Yale start sharing in the cost.

City officials Wednesday night offered some details of how that plan (first reported here) would work in practice. The preview came in an informal question-and-answer session with aldermen at City Hall.

The plan is part of a larger rethinking of how New Haven does government business as it confronts a budget crisis.

If aldermen approve the plan, the city would create a fund with the power to bill property owners for their share of water removal costs. That would be a change from the current system, in which stormwater removal is paid for only through the larger pool property taxes collected by New Haven; that means owners of tax-exempt property pay nothing for the city’s stormwater system. Under the new plan, homeowners would pay less than a quarter of the cost of the city’s bill for stormwater removal.

The plan was submitted last month to the Board of Aldermen, which will consider the plan on Jan. 20, in advance of a final vote in February.

Based on Wednesday night’s discussion, here’s a summarized Q&A to explain how the plan would work.

What exactly are we talking about here? Why do we pay for water falling from the sky?

Every time it rains (or snows and melts), water runs off all the impermeable surfaces in the city. That water is collected in storm drains. It eventually ends up in the Long Island Sound or other bodies of water. It costs money to maintain that drainage system and make sure it meets all federal and state environmental regulations. The city pays for it with taxpayer dollars.

Other cities, those with stormwater authorities, pay for stormwater removal through fees.

Stormwater authorities are a common feature of many cities, city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts told the aldermen Wednesday night. Over 300 municipalities have them—including Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Des Moines—but no towns yet in Connecticut. The budget crises currently hitting American cities has led more of them to consider the idea.

Who would run this new thing?

Stormwater authorities come in several flavors. They can be independent corporate entities like New Haven’s parking authority or regional authorities (like the water pollution control agency).

The plan for New Haven is for an “Enterprise Fund” authority. The authority would have its own board of directors. But the Board of Aldermen would ultimately retain control and would have final say on the budget and fees. All meetings of the authority’s board would be open to the public.

Smuts said the new authority would likely be headed by himself or City Engineer Dick Miller. It would require no new hires, he said.

Ultimately, the authority could become an independent corporate entity, but the city doesn’t want to rush into that without proving that it can be sustainable, Smuts said.

How’s it all going to work? What’ll it cost?

Initially, the stormwater authority represents only a change in how stormwater removal is paid for, not in services, Smuts said.

The authority would evaluate residential properties for their impermeable surface area—that is, how much of the property creates stormwater runoff instead of absorbing water. That evaluation would be done through satellite imagery and site inspections. The authority would then calculate an average rate for residential properties, called the “Equivalent Residential Unit,” or ERU.

Other properties—including commercial, not-for-profit, and other educational properties—would be measured separately, via satellite and in person, then converted to ERUs. Property owners would pay based on how many ERUs they have, at a rate of $40 to $50 per ERU, Smuts said.

Property owners would get an annual bill from the stormwater authority, probably as another line on the Water Pollution Control Authority bill.

So now people would pay a new fee for something they’re already paying taxes for? How about lowering taxes, then?

That was West Rock Alderman Darnell Goldson’s question.

“It depends on what you guys [aldermen] decide to do,” Smuts replied. “That’s the budget discussion.”

Aldermen have final say over the city budget and can decide to reduce taxes if they wish, he said.

Smuts said paying for stormwater removal through fees and an authority would likely free up $2.4 million from the general fund. At the request of Hill Alderman Jorge Perez (pictured), Smuts promised to provide aldermen with a close accounting of how that figure was calculated.

After the briefing, Perez said that if the stormwater authority is approved and city property owners don’t see their tax burden reduced by $2.4 million, they could legitimately complain they are being double-billed.

For his part, Smuts told aldermen that he will be making bigger cuts than that out of the departments that he oversees in the next fiscal year. “I’m cutting significantly more than $2.4 million out of my budgets.”

Would there be a way to reduce one’s stormwater fee?

Yes. Property owners could receive credits for efforts to mitigate water run-off. For instance, a homeowner could collect rainwater from roof gutters in barrels and use it later to water his lawn, instead of having it all wash down the storm drain. Such a homeowner would qualify for a reduction in the stormwater fee, Smuts said.

But you can’t credit yourself down to zero; everybody has to pay something, Smuts said. That’s because property owners are paying for the collective benefit of having water removed from city streets, he said. It’s an argument that has significant case law behind it, he said.

If you put in raincbarrels and then feel that you haven’t received the credit you deserve, there will be an appeals process, Smuts promised.

Why should the city do this anyway?

Smuts offered several reasons, based on environmental, financial, and equity concerns.

Residential taxpayers currently pay 59 percent of the cost of stormwater removal, Smuts said. If a fee structure is implemented, that would go down to 23 percent, he said.

“The concept is to tie the costs with who’s using the service,” Smuts said.

In terms of the environment, the city faces significant and increasing stormwater mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Protection, Smuts said. Regulations require the city to ensure that water saturated with engine oil and salt from roads and parking lots isn’t being flushed into the Long Island Sound and other waterways. Meeting those mandates does and will require expensive infrastructure, Smuts said.

The environmental mandates can also be met by reducing stormwater run-off, an effort that would also be assisted by creating an authority, Smuts said. A new use-based fee structure would “incentivize good behavior,” he said.

Smuts offered a personal example. “I have a two-family house,” he said. He said he has tenants on his first floor, and, as any landlord knows, tenants will conserve energy if they are asked to pay separately for heat and rent, he said. “If it’s inclusive, people don’t think about cranking up the heat.”

Similarly, a fee based on surface area will encourage property owners to mitigate their water run-off, Smuts said.

Why shouldn’t we do it?

Goldson offered a possible answer to that question. In addition to his concern about adding a fee on top of existing taxes, without an equivalent decrease in taxes, Goldson said he has concerns that creating a stormwater authority opens up a new avenue for the city to impose fees, and while those fees might be modest the first year, they might quickly increase.

“It happens all the time,” he said. The city has a knack for finding new things to charge for, he said.

Goldson said he hasn’t decided whether to support or oppose the authority plan. He said he might push to add conditions to approval that could limit fee increases.

What’s the timeframe on all this?

Smuts said he plans to hold at least one informational briefing for aldermen before the board meets as a committee-of-the-whole on Jan. 20. The committee will decide whether to recommend the plan for a vote, which would likely happen in February. The authority would then establish methods, fees, credits, and a budget, which would be reviewed and approved by the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee. The authority could then start collecting fees for fiscal year 2011-2012, which begins in July.

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posted by: Mary on January 6, 2011  9:40am

Here we go with some forms of double dipping again, Smuts said that the Tax payers are already paying for this so why is he trying to make up pay twice through this new program?  If you Aldermen approve this then you all need your heads to be examine.  I agree with Goldson, who is it to say that after next year the City isn’t going to increase the amount.  My vote is NO!!!

posted by: robn on January 6, 2011  10:22am

Rob’s sort of right about the BOA being in control of the budget and the supposed $2.4M, but he’s also sort of wrong. The BOA can revise the mayors annual budget proposal and send it back, but he can veto it and only a 2/3 majority can override that veto. If the BOA fails to act for 3 months after the mayors budget is proposed, the original goes into effect. So effectively the ball is in the mayors court. This rule is in the City Charter which is Title 1 in the New Haven Code of Ordinances. So effectively, the mayor decides.

Also…how is the city engineer going to have time to measure the permeable surface on every property in town? How is he going to use a grainy satellite photo to tell the difference between asphalt and permeable concrete block or stone walkways and driveways?

Sounds like a time sink for taxpayers appealing. How much will that cost in lost productivity?

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 6, 2011  10:59am

Hmmm. Ok, so they want to start to allign revenue with specific costs.  The idea is a good one and increases transparency and accountability.

So why not do the same thing with the Board of Education?  We should require the board of education to tax seperately from the regular city services.

Are there any alders out there who would like to study this, or support the idea? If not, why not?

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 6, 2011  11:05am

What’s Next?  Are we going to be assessed a breathing charge for the amount of air consumed on our properties?  As they used to say in the old card game… Go Fish!  Cut government sending and stop nickle-and-diming the already overtaxed, over-hustled property owners of this city. You folks are going to force loyal Democrats to join the Tea Party with all your confiscatory tax schemes.  My Alderman, Greg Dildine, is urged to block this Tom foolery… runoff indeed!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 6, 2011  11:05am

I have built my organization upon fear

Once in the racket you’re always in it. 

Al Capone

Keep on voting for this crooked two party system and this is what you will get.

posted by: JP on January 6, 2011  11:33am

whats wrong with all of you all this is about is shifting the tax burden from home owners to Yale and the hospitals its a great thing for anyone who lives in the city.

posted by: streever on January 6, 2011  11:35am

Robn is right, and Smuts is right in an idealistic world.

I think this is a good plan, and if the Mayor was willing to commit to lowering taxes in exchange for this revenue, would think it worthy of endorsement.

However (and this is why the alders couldn’t get a lower tax increase), the 2/3rds majority to veto the mayor’s budget is a killer. Without line item control over the biggest elements, the Aldermen have virtually no power to make substantiative changes to the budget. They are literally forced to be a “Yes” or a “No” vote, with little context and little nuance. This is one of the biggest problems in our politics, and should be revised as soon as possible.

This is a great article, by the way: very factual, and really lays out the real deal in a very compelling way.

posted by: jamesrobinson on January 6, 2011  11:41am

This is hogwash, how much more can CT residents pay….cut spending, cut spending. Have municipal employees starting with the mayor’s bloated staff, board of education and others take a pay cuts or a wage freeze. There are too many “administrators” making 100K plus. Government too much then we cry when there is a shortfall. What accounting schools did these ... go to.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 6, 2011  11:56am

Excellent article.
Truth Avenger, did you read it?

posted by: john on January 6, 2011  11:59am

goldson is right; this should not go forward unless there is a commensurate REDUCTION in the already high property taxes (which, btw, are still rising…) If robn is right—and he probably is—about the budget prodcedure, what makes anyone think DeStefano will hesitate to keep taxes high and add the fee?

and again—what does the water pollution control authority do? what do we pay THEM for? (a question asked out of ignorance.)

posted by: Cedarhillresident on January 6, 2011  12:09pm

I agree with Goldson some kind of a cap clause need to be placed, at least to protect the home owners.
Reality is we are going to see increases in our taxes. But for bookkeeping reasons we need to eliminate this 2 mill from the figures to get a true view of what is need ect. This is not an extra 2 mill. and by not removing it, history says it will be treated that way. It is not transparent to keep it there under a tax for water run off.

posted by: da hill on January 6, 2011  12:28pm

WOW…3/5, I would have to agree with your analogy.

Mayor to City of New Haven “I am going to reduce your taxes by xx%, how does that sound?”

City of New Haven responds “that is excellent…thank you kindly”

Mayor to City of New Haven “oh by the way I am going to have to create this new board for reasons beyond my control (EPA, CDEQ)...and it only cost a seperate line item fee anually on your existing WPC bill…”

City of New Haven “thats not fair Mr. Mayor! that is shifting money around not reducing taxes…!!!!!”

Mayor to City (noticable tone change) “you either pay now or pay later, but you will pay me!!!! I mean the city…”

City of New Haven (fear in voice) “Oh no…what do we do?”

Board of Aldermen to the City “as your elected officials, we are going to support this endeavor…not because we want to, but its whats in your best interest!” (despite the BOA not fully understanding the program, and its undying loyalty to the Machine”)

City of New Haven…“OK”

Darnell Goldson-you have been an unexpected voice of reason and rational thought on the board…please dont stop asking questions and holding them accountable (dont sell your soul), as many of your peers have danced with the devil and cant remember their name if not approved by the administration first…just refer to the budget article (…_yes/ ) questions and the famous response “Maybe”...REALLY!

Reminds me of the GoodFellas movie…

posted by: robn on January 6, 2011  12:32pm


Does anyone know why we have an estimated $50M+ deficit next year? Is this some sort of deferred payment for pensions or bonds or something? Surely it isn’t elective?

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 6, 2011  12:35pm

Sorry Jonathan Hopkins- creating yet another bureaucratic “authority” is not the answer to anything. Anyone who thinks that creating another venue for taxation(doubly insulting to try to pass this off as being good for the environment)is going to result in the lowering of their tax bill, is being naive at best. J.H.- have you read BETWEEN the lines?

posted by: JB on January 6, 2011  12:46pm

Fine, if homeowners receive a tax cut for their portion of the stormwater bill.

Otherwise, is this type of double dipping even legal?

posted by: Melanie on January 6, 2011  1:03pm

In tandem with an appropriate tax deduction, this COULD work. In this way, property owners have an incentive to improve the environmental impact of their properties, while the taxpaying owners (the only ones eligible for the deductions) would not be unfairly or excessively burdened.

posted by: Darnell on January 6, 2011  1:10pm

Robn is sort of right. The Board can revise the budget submitted by the Mayor. The Mayor can veto the revised budget, which means that his original budget is back n the table. The Board can then override the veto with 2/3, or can, with a simple majority, vote down or revise his budget again. If the BOA and the mayor do not agree on a budget by the first week in June, the Mayor’s original budget is automatically adopted. So, he does have leverage, but politically it would be disastrous for him.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 6, 2011  1:23pm

posted by: streever on January 6, 2011 10:35am

This is one of the biggest problems in our politics.

No the biggest problems in politics is people like you who Keep voting for the Crooked two party system.

P.S. Didn’t King John put you on ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS.

Appointed by the Mayor per Section 177, Art. XXXI of the City Charter Revised 1993, Section 8-5 of the CT General Statutes TERM FIVE YEARS (5)

Dem. David Streever
Alternate Member


posted by: Cedarhillresident on January 6, 2011  1:30pm

Robn here is some explanation,

posted by: FacChec on January 6, 2011  1:52pm

This proposal in its present form and Rob’s selling points are all wet.

There is no logical or scientific way to determine the amount of storm water generated on a given property and verified to be generated solely by that property.

There is no scientific way to determine those amounts by satellite through the clouds.

The city’s sewage and sewer systems are interconnected and more that 50% of its piping systems have not been separated (sewage from sewer). Additionally, there is no way then, as now, to determine water run-off generated from Hamden, East Haven, North Haven, and other surrounding communities, onto and into New Haven surfaces.

Rob’s following analogy is childish at best and contains no logical means of measurement:

Smuts offered a personal example. “I have a two-family house,” he said. He said he has tenants on his first floor, and, as any landlord knows, tenants will conserve energy if they are asked to pay separately for heat and rent, he said. “If it’s inclusive, people don’t think about cranking up the heat.”

Similarly, a fee based on surface area will encourage property owners to mitigate their water run-off”, Smuts said.


Equally disappointing is the questions raised here by the aldermen who did not verify the current rate of charges (2.5M) to be accurate and verifiable.

Secondly, this proposal is not among those currently under consideration in the IBB to reduce the budget, but seemingly is a quick fix to justify the 1M pilot grant from the State DEP and then sold to gullible aldermen who show no propensity to consider the issue as a regional one to be shared and discussed with surrounding communities.

What’s the time frame on all this?...

“Jan. 20. The committee will decide whether to recommend the plan for a vote, which would likely happen in February. The authority would then establish methods and fees”.

No suggestion like meeting with the public, gathering the public’s ideas, approval, while placing public members on the planning board.

posted by: streever on January 6, 2011  2:53pm

... Why you can not accept that the rest of us are perfectly capable of serving our city—despite disagreeing with the Mayor on many things—is beyond me.

posted by: JEP on January 6, 2011  3:04pm

This is ludicrous!  Anyone who believes this scheme will lower taxes is really naive.  We might see a “tax reduction” in one year, then guess what, they’ll go right back up the next year so we’ll all be stuck with the increased taxes and a water fee.  I’m also worried that the Aldermen are “considering” this lame plan. These are the same Aldermen who bought the Mayor’s budget schenanigans with the city budget when they took his word that he could find $3 million in efficiency savings.  Whatever happended to that??  Don’t just vote no for this scheme —vote hell no!

posted by: John Padilla on January 6, 2011  3:11pm

I think this idea is ridiculous and will harass my Alderman to oppose it.  Since we are supposedly already paying for this in our taxes, why not just leave it alone so that way—at the very least—we can continue to get the tax write-off? As homeowners, whatever fee we eventually end up paying will not be tax deductible.

posted by: HewNaven?? on January 6, 2011  3:44pm

Oh my god. Let’s not create a fee that’s associated with environmental impact. What’s next, a city that actually cares about stuff? Make it stop!

posted by: good start on January 6, 2011  4:00pm

This is a good idea. While people’s distrust of authority and a new “Authority” is understandable, this emotional response is counterproductive to creating a more equitable payment system for an essential city service. We need funds to repair and maintain the storm water system. At this time, the burden is carried by residents. Finding a way to share the burden with all users of the infrastructure makes sense. Huge big box stores with giant asphalt flat roofs and giant blacktop parking lots should pay more for creating large flows of contaminated run-off (not to mention heat islands). It makes sense to establish a fair “pay for use” system that provides incentives for good environmental planning.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 6, 2011  5:02pm

posted by: streever on January 6, 2011 1:53pm
... Why you can not accept that the rest of us are perfectly capable of serving our city—despite disagreeing with the Mayor on many things—is beyond me

...How can you help a system that is breaking the backs of the middle class.How could you up hold any program like this that will drive more people out of new haven and more they likely put people into foreclosure DUDE!!!

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 6, 2011  5:22pm

To “Good Start- You asserted: “It makes sense to establish a fair “pay for use” system that provides incentives for good environmental planning.
Wha?? This is clearly a fee imposed well after the fact- well after our buildings,private and business, have been designed, planned, built and ostensibly approved by zoning. You are now going to ask established residences in neighborhoods that are hundreds of years old, to start paying fees for infrastructure and design that in most cases was in place long before they assumed ownership? The fees for water entering my residence- and another fee for water (sewage) leaving my home, coupled with the huge tax bill I get every year for city services is more than enough- to which I would add: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
This sounds like an “emotional response” some charge, which is a rhetorical tactic to invalidate what is a simple issue of fairness and economic justice for the property owners of this city.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 6, 2011  6:43pm

Truth Avenger,
Currently, property tax payers (and contributors ie renters) who live in a typical New Haven house - 2 family house on 1/8 acre - are paying disproportionately for the costs of storm water runoff because the runoff from yards that have significant permeable ground cover, landscaping and trees (typical New Haven house lots) contribute relatively little storm water runoff to our overburdened sewer system. Meanwhile, the places that contribute significantly to storm water runoff - businesses with large parking lots, large sprawling flat roof buildings, housing developments with elaborate and excessive road systems with few trees, etc - are not paying proportionally. By creating a separate fee, the process of sharing the costs of storm water management fairly can begin.
I am not saying that the city’s current plan is perfect, or that it is being done for environmental reasons; this may very well be an attempt to squeeze new revenue sources out of citizens. With proper oversight, however, a storm water authority could be a very good idea because it would help to shift the burden of paying for storm water management from the people who contribute relatively little to the sewer system (the average residential property owner in the city) onto the properties that currently enjoy a large subsidy from the average New Haven homeowner in the form of a tax bill that does not reflect the true cost of things like parking lots, sprawling complexes, etc.

posted by: Greg Dildine on January 6, 2011  8:08pm

Truth Avenger - Please contact me directly to discuss this further.

ALL New Haven home owners are already paying for Storm Water run-off associated costs.  They are not shared equitably; and due to Federal & State mandates, and desires to be environmentally conscience, these costs will rise dramatically over the next few years regardless of the implementation of an “authority” to manage these services/costs.  We (BOA) will definitely evaluate this proposal and make sure that this, or any storm water program, is the most economical for tax payers.

posted by: Charlie O'Keefe on January 6, 2011  8:35pm

OK. I’ve changed my mind on this. Lets have a sstomataauthority if it spreads the costs to Yale and IKEA and all the other deadbeats out there. If we have a $50 charge on our sewer bill then we should get a $60 reduction in our propery tax to avoid double dipping. $50 would be the extra charge, and the additional $10 would make up for the tax break lost on the deductibility of property taxes. If the stormwater charge goes to $100 in 2012, we get back $120 on our property taxes. That seems fair to me.

posted by: Gary Doyens on January 6, 2011  9:36pm

We do not need a rain tax. Our major non-profits and all property owners in New Haven currently pay for this service. There is no evidence the cost of this service will increase significantly in coming years. Says who? Where is the documented evidence from somewhere other than the Administration? As for the BOA delivering the most cost effective services for city taxpayers - one need only look at our current finances, the state of the city pension funds and our balance sheet of some $2 billion in debt and obligations or the police union contract that will once again pay a retiring officer more for doing nothing than we ever paid him for doing something to know that is not true.

Look, if the city feels the non-profits aren’t paying a significant enough contribution for this service, charge them. That doesn’t mean we need to set in motion another whole tax for all of us. Facheck has it right. This is just another money grab. And for the record, I find the overall cost of this sevice to be dubious too - so far, it’s $2 million, $2.5 million and $2.4 million.

And let’s disabuse ourselves that this is some environmental nirvana nor will it create cleaner beaches or any of that other tree hugging nonsense. That’s just the Administration’s reserve excuse for another money scam.

posted by: FacChec on January 6, 2011  10:37pm

To: Alderman Greg Dildine…

Your comments above sound like they were manufactured straight out of the Mayor’s office.

“ALL New Haven home owners are already paying for Storm Water run-off associated costs.  They are not shared equitably”

Heck, Smuts already said that.

Tell us how you independently know this, and what is that cost?

“We (BOA) will definitely evaluate this proposal and make sure that this, or any storm water program, is the most economical for tax payers”.

The tax payer would much prefer you say:

I/we will evaluate the proposal and offer appropriate amendmendments which include citizens from all affected communities in the planning and implementation of any plan, and offers the most logical and economical approach for all taxpayers.

In other words Didline, Be original,
make it your own and stop following the donkey.

You should now know what we all know, Yale has a super tax exemption from the state of CT. and will only pay if it suits they’re purposes.

With that, you should realize that any new tax will not be equitable.

posted by: King John on January 6, 2011  11:02pm

I am King John the first, and last. There will be no magna carter. I am in charge and infallible. I hereby announce there will be forthwith in the ancient kingdom of Nuevo Haveno a cahones tax. There are just too many of them. Why, many people have two of them. If all the board of aldermen and women have none, which I can readily attest to, then why should the citizenry be greedy and aspire to two. Let it be known henceforth that all ye that are double drooping will be double taxed.

posted by: first observer on January 7, 2011  2:43am

Questions for Mr. Smuts:

1) Rain barrels are not the only way roof water can be diverted from runoff.  Many gutter downspouts lead to dry wells, from which water seeps into the surrounding ground, rather than lead to pipes that tie into the city drainage system.  How will the city account for dry wells?

2) Many driveways, and probably parking lots, have internal drains, which, again, collect water that then seeps into the ground.  Will the city account for these, as opposed to just measuring gross area of pavement?

3) Will runoff from city sidewalks be taxed to the property owner?  Will a property with a long street frontage, and thus a lot of front sidewalk, be taxed higher than one with a narrow frontage?  What about a house sitting on a corner, at an intersection?  Will houses in neighborhoods where there are no public sidewalks (there are a few, here and there) escape from being taxed on sidewalks?

4) My understanding (I could be wrong) is that technically a property owner “owns” the land on which the street itself runs, out to the middle of the street.  Will property owners be taxed according to how much roadway is in front of their properties, both according to the length of their frontage (like sidewalks) but also according to the width of the street?

posted by: Alan Felder on January 7, 2011  7:57am

The BOA is about to be out hustled and the taxpayer’s are about to be pimped.

posted by: streever on January 7, 2011  8:23am

3/5th, I get that you advocate a 60s “walk out” philosophy, where people who care just don’t get involved. The reality is that if everyone did that, the city would indeed break the backs of the middle class—and the poor—very quickly.

The reality is that we do need good governance. In his role on the Board of Alderman, my alder, Justin Elicker, has done demonstrably more good for people than the alternative (no alderman).

How can I participate in my city, you ask? I can participate because I haven’t seen the voters do much about the Mayor, and instead of dropping out, I would like to work on the city and it’s problems.

I encourage you to volunteer for a non-profit or other group in the city and get engaged in improving the city. Trust me, the first time you see someone you helped smile, you’ll understand how the rest of us can do work in a city we think is mis-run.

Until then, you are just kvetching. It is one thing to point out problems: it is another thing to berate and target citizens actively working on problems, with the only option you offer being, “don’t do anything”.

If you are sincere, run for mayor. Make a third party and groom potential candidates. You know what? as an alderman, you’d have a vote on the charter, which would allow you to push proportional representation.

You are not as powerless as you choose to be. That is my only real frustration with you, and the number one thing I think which prohibits you from understanding.

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 7, 2011  8:29am

To Jonathan Hopkins and Alderman Dildine:

posted by: Backdoortaxscheme on January 7, 2011  9:46am

ITS A TAX INCREASE PERIOD END OF STORY. DONT MAKE FOOLS OUT OF US PROPERTY OWNERS WITH YET ANOTHER SCHEME TO REMOVE MORE MONEY OUT OF OUR POCKETS. Question: “Why was this idea not put forward many years ago when there was no budget crisis? Answer: Because its merely a backdoortaxscheme.

posted by: Webblog1 on January 7, 2011  10:18am


April 7, 2009

Governor Rell: $48 Million in Stimulus Funds
to Improve Water, Sewer Systems Statewide

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced today that the state is getting $48.5 million in federal stimulus funds to help dozens of municipalities – large and small – repair and update aging water and sewer infrastructure with “shovel-ready” projects that will create immediate jobs for construction workers, designers and engineers.

“From modernizing waste and storm water systems to updating treatment technologies, we are building on our long-standing investment in clean water. The workers on these sites will pump money back into local economies,” Governor Rell said. “The much-needed projects help us safeguard the environment and protect the quality of our water.”

The Governor said the projects were selected after an extensive public comment and hearing process and expands the number of projects supported through the Clean Water Fund (CWF). The $48.5 million in stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides an additional $85 million for clean water projects because of the “leveraging” benefit of the CWF. Through bonding proposed by Governor Rell and approved by the state Bond Commission, the state now has $270 million available for clean water projects.

The communities chosen for clean water projects range from the state’s largest – Bridgeport – to smaller towns such as Marlborough and New Hartford and state officials say many of these projects are deemed “shovel-ready,” meaning they have obtained all the necessary permits and are ready to go out to bid. One of the largest design and construction projects is a $66 million sewer overflow system for the Metropolitan District Commission.

For more information on these projects or the ARRA in Connecticut, visit the state’s official stimulus Web site at and click on the CT Recovery link. For information on the CWF projects visit:

Clean Water Fund Priority List: Approved Projects

Combined Sewer Overlow (CSO)

Combined sewer overflow (CSO) projects are being undertaken to separate storm and sanitary flows from combined sewers to minimize the number and volume of overflows. The following projects are eligible for maximum grants of 50% with the remainder being covered by 20-year loans at 2% per year:

Bridgeport is continuing separation work in the southern part of the city. This work will enable the City to reduce CSOs to the Pequonnock River.
Bridgeport CSO $14,000,000
Bridgeport CSO design $5,175,900

The Greater New Haven WPCA is working to separate sewers in the vicinity of Yale University. This project will reduce the frequency and volume of downstream CSOs.
GNHWPCA CSO Construction $19,200,000
GNHWPCA CSO Design $3,000,000

posted by: Brian Tang on January 7, 2011  10:47am

I have two complaints:
A) I think property owners who process all stormwater on-site through structural Best Management Practices (vegetated swales, rain gardens, stormwater wetlands, and the like) should be able to “credit themselves down to zero.” “Because it is legal” is a lousy argument for why we should or should not do something.
B) The City needs to stop presenting this as a budget matter and start presenting it first and foremost as a way to encourage the stormwater Best Management Practices necessary to prevent combined sewer overflows and runoff pollution from continuing to pollute the West River, Beaver Pond, Mill River, Quinnipiac, New Haven Harbor, and Long Island Sound. Ultimately, this must be about saving the Sound, not fixing the budget.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 7, 2011  11:24am

3/5th, I get that you advocate a 60s “walk out” philosophy, where people who care just don’t get involved. The reality is that if everyone did that, the city would indeed break the backs of the middle class—and the poor—very quickly.

You are right,I do advocate a 60s “walk out” philosophy.Dr.king did.In fact here is one of my main man.

The reality is that we do need good governance. In his role on the Board of Alderman, my alder, Justin Elicker, has done demonstrably more good for people than the alternative (no alderman).

Under the system we have there is no good governance.What you have is a corporate plutocracy which the two party system is there front people.You like you man Elicker and others are in the colon of the crooked two party system.As the saying goes,When you take the kings meat,You must do the kings biding.How
do you like your meat welldone?

I encourage you to volunteer for a non-profit or other group in the city and get engaged in improving the city. Trust me, the first time you see someone you helped smile, you’ll understand how the rest of us can do work in a city we think is mis-run

I do work with groups who picket and fight the corporate pluotcracy,I work with unions who are under attack by the same people you up hold.What do you do to fight the corporate plutocracy.Sit on a board that King john put you on.

Run for mayor. Make a third party and groom potential candidates. You know what? as an alderman, you’d have a vote on the charter, which would allow you to push proportional representation.

Are you going to vote for me?Would you help me get proportional representation.Would you help me get term limts,A elected school board,I don’t need to run to get these things.I need you and the people to fight and get these things.You talk about how good Justin Elicker, has done demonstrably more good for people,How about ask him to get fellow alderman for these things.I bet you he will not.

I leave you with 60s “walk out” philosophy.

“If those in charge of our society—politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television—can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
— Howard Zinn

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

posted by: Cedarhillresident on January 7, 2011  12:43pm


posted by: Rich on January 7, 2011  12:57pm

The authority would be a great idea if there were a guarantee that non-Yale/Ikea property owners saw a deduction in property tax as Charlie O’Keefe wrote. It would have to be legally tied to the property tax somehow to make sure abuses were avoided. I can see the city just jacking up the new authority’s fee making it even harder to continue living here.

posted by: just wondering on January 7, 2011  1:24pm

Looks like an all male meeting, Does the BOA have a division of labor along sex lines?

posted by: downtown d on January 7, 2011  5:48pm

The first question I have, and I’m guessing there’s a good answer, is why the WPCA isn’t handling this issue with sewer fees? non-profit landowners pay those. does New Haven receive downstream water from neighboring towns?

posted by: Jay Dee on January 7, 2011  5:51pm

When will the De Stefano gang stop putting more pressure on the tax payers of New Haven, next tax the wind the sun . Why not air, when will it stop?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 7, 2011  8:07pm

This is not a rainwater tax. That would be idiotic and I’d oppose it. It is a fee that will (supposedly) go towards maintaining, fixing and upgrading the infrastructure that handles storm water collection. Increased impermeable surfaces, sprawling rather than compact buildings and developments, excessive roadways, and lack of landscaping contribute to increased demand on the infrastructure that collect storm water. Currently, these costs are not being paid for fairly in terms of proportion to the amount that a property owner contributes to storm water capacity based on the design, layout, and elements on a given property.
The creation of a storm water authority is a step in the right direction for equitably sharing the costs of maintaining, fixing and upgrading the sewer systems (in addition to occasion federal and state funding that may be allocated to municipalities as in the case of Webblog1’s post). Whether it’s actually viable or even possible to calculate this proportion accurately is another matter, but common sense and basic calculation can probably yield some fair proportional amount. Hopefully the city will be fair and it is up to us to make them accountable.
Fees may vary from year to year based on the amount of rainfall, snow, unbagged leaves, chemical runoff from car washing and garden fertilizes, etc that degrade the sewer system infrastructure and eventually lead to health and environmental problems that end up costing a fortune in the form of rising health care costs, hospital bills, water treatment facilities, etc later on down the road.
It’s usually cheaper to pay for things up front, rather than risking the long-term unintended consequences that result from deferring payments.
Infrastructure also ages and needs maintenance and the longer routine maintenance is avoided, the faster the infrastructure degrades and the more expensive it is to repair or replace. I suspect much of the infrastructure in New Haven is pretty old, and the city was built with a population of around 150,000 residents, which supported the infrastructure. Today, the city has a population of about 125,000 with a significant number who are on government assistance, so there are far fewer people to support the infrastructure maintenance through taxes yet there are thousands of more people using the infrastructure and degrading it than there ever used to be. Also, the amount impermeable surfaces has astronomically risen since the days when New Haven was a prosperous, self-sufficient city. With increased residents (hopefully drawn by the New Haven Promise program, the residency requirement if it passes, transit access, etc.) the burden of supporting New Haven’s infrastructure can be spread more equitably amongst more people resulting (ideally) in lower taxes or increased and improved services.

The existing taxing system for storm water management is unfair. This new system with a storm water authority also has the potential of being unfair if it used inappropriately. However, a stormwater authority is not inherently unfair. In fact, it is a good start in sharing costs more equitably to tax payers and it needs to be monitored by an active and engaged citizenry, just like anything else.

posted by: Martha Smith on January 7, 2011  10:53pm

This program makes all property owners—even those that don’t pay property taxes—now must pay their share of treating stormwater.

We have no control over rain falling on our properties, but once it hits the ground and flows into the storm-sewers it carries fertilizers, herbicides, auto oil and fluids, sediment, pet poop, etc.  Maybe these things are in very small amounts from any one location, but from all over the city they combine into some pretty nasty water. The City is required to treat the stormwater before discharging it into Long Island Sound, and now they want ALL property owners to pay their proportion of the cost.

Unfortunately, I doubt that we will see a reduction in our property taxes.

But I do like the thought of swimming in a cleaner Long Island Sound.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 8, 2011  6:25pm

This is nothing more then the crooked hedgefunders who are looking for profit.

Water: Next Hot Profit Sector?

posted by: Harry David on January 11, 2011  12:17am

As many have pointed out this sounds like another complex mechanism to raise taxes.
1.  Perhaps Rob Smuts can explain what opportunities the individual resi or commercial property owner has to reduce rainwater runoff? And can Rob Smuts show us how any reduction in rainwater runoff—induced by charging based on impermeable surfaces—will reduce the almost entirely fixed costs of treating rainwater runoff?

This is a case where the cost of administering this scheme is likely to be more than any actual total cost reductions due to property owners conservation actions.

2.  If the goal is merely to shift some of the tax burden on to those not now paying their share of such services then a more direct asssessment of these non-profits for their share of the costs of rainwater treatment is a more efficient alternative.

And yes, why do we need another entity—other than the Water Pollution Control Authority—to do this function?? This is just another opportunity to create another Authority with another layer of personnel and costs that can only increase.  Another home for patronage jobs?

This scheme has no merit but it seems to have been long in gestation. The State statutes that permitted this seems to have been custom tailored to allow New Haven to be one of the four municipalities that qualify for this project. (The definitions of the four municipalites along Long Island Sound that qualify were all perfectly worded to fit New Haven—notice the population requirement that was specified as “....having a population of not less than 125,000 and not more than 125,500…... Someone must have put those definitions into the statue to allow New Haven to qualify. The other cities were similarly defined to allow Norwalk, Stonington and one other city to qualify)

This Authority serves no purpose—other than to provide another lever to tax the citizenry.  There are much simpler ways to extract contributions for this purpose from non-profits than this Rube Goldberg contraption.