Town Spends Little of Existing $250,000/year Storm Drain | Clean Water Tax; Wants 60% More.

Does town need additional $155,000/year to supplement existing $250,000/year already taxed for clean water compliance? 21 of 23 activities cost nothing, are paid or handled by the County or developers, or don't apply.

We've obtained the town's EPA "clean water" quality compliance activity report from 2016. The town's activities don't appear to use the $250,000/year in taxes we're already paying, nor do they merit the additional $155,000 they seek in new taxes under the proposed storm drain "fee".

In A Nutshell:

Nearly half of the EPA compliance and "clean water" activities are handled and paid for by Contra Costa County or developers/contractors.

Nine of eleven activities the town actually undertakes cost nothing.

A trash abatement program characterized as "critical" collected the equivalent of the trashcan under your kitchen sink (0.04 cubic yards).

There’s a separate line-item in the proposed tax for maintenance, duplicated here.

In 2016 the town allocated only $10,000 to trash mitigation and just $20,000 to minor pipe repairs. $203,000 was earmarked for transfer to the general fund.

Let's have a look at the $250,000/year that we already are paying for EPA-compliance storm drain activities (EPA/NPDES, explained here).

These are the activities that the town engineer didn't consider "high priority" or important enough to include in the proposed storm drain tax until the town's consultant prompted him (see EPA/NPDES article here.)

The town says they need another $155,000/year in taxes for them, equating to 20% of the proposed $800,000/year additional storm drain tax the town seeks. Yet, very little of existing taxes being paid for this are needed or used for the intended purpose, based on the town's official reporting to regulatory agencies.

During the town's recent storm drain information sessions, the town stated that its most important EPA compliance activities are preventing mercury, PCBs, contaminants, and trash from entering stormwater, along with ensuring developers and contractors don't send dirty water into the storm drain system and general maintenance (which enjoys a separate line item in the proposed new taxes).

Mayor Trotter characterized it as an "unfunded mandate" despite $250,000 in existing taxes being paid to accomplish the activities. Videos of those sessions are in the links at the bottom of this article.

Here's the complete list of activities undertaken - and their associated costs - from the town's EPA permit compliance report available here.

Bottom line: The town already receives $250,000/year in taxes for two activities it actually undertakes: (1) trash load reduction of the equivalent of an undersink trashcan and (2) inspecting 20 businesses. $250,000/year is the equivalent of 3 full time employees.

According to the town's financial statements, the rest of the money is being transferred to the general fund to cover general operating costs and salaries of public works employees.

Links/Sources:

Town EPA/NPDES Compliance Report to Water Control Boards: here

EPA/NPDES spending in town budget: p135 of PDF here

Town storm drain information sessions here and here